English guitarist, singer, manager and record producer
Jay Ruston began his recording career in Canada in the early 1990's, training under legendary producer Jack Richardson (Alice Cooper, Bob Seger, The Guess Who). In 2003, Jay relocated to Los Angeles where he quickly fell in favor of producers such as Desmond Child and Peter Asher. Since then, Jay has produced or mixed records for Anthrax, Steel Panther, Diana Ross, Wilson Philips, American Idol, Stone Sour, Meat Loaf, Better than Ezra, Killswitch Engage, Everclear, Bowling for Soup, Theory of a Deadman and many others. Jay currently works from his studio in Sherman Oaks producing, mixing and mixing in 5.1 surround sound. IN THIS EPISODE, YOU'LL LEARN ABOUT: Stacking vocals & creating harmonies Pushing singers to get great performances vs relying on tuning Lessons learned from famed producer, Jack Richardson Working for free to start your career Working with Steel Panther Writing lyrics with artists To recording with click track or not Tempo mapping Preserving natural feel vs hyper-editing Top-down mixing Vocal compression for rock music To learn more about Jay Ruston, visit http://jayruston.com/ To learn more tips on how to improve your mixes, visit https://masteryourmix.com/ Download your FREE copy of the Ultimate Mixing Blueprint: https://masteryourmix.com/blueprint/ Get your copy of the #1 Amazon bestselling book, The Mixing Mindset – The Step-By-Step Formula For Creating Professional Rock Mixes From Your Home Studio: https://masteryourmix.com/mixingmindsetbook/ Join the FREE MasterYourMix Facebook community: https://links.masteryourmix.com/community To make sure that you don't miss an episode, make sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on Android. Have your questions answered on the show. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for listening! Please leave a rating and review on iTunes!
Guest host Ian Punnett and musician Peter Asher of the 1960s duo Peter & Gordon discuss his career as a singer, his Grammy award winning work as a producer with artists like James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, and how he inspired the movie character Austin Powers.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Musician, author, and producer Peter Asher joins Bob Sirott to talk about his upcoming appearance at The Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago. He also shared details about how John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand,’ the time he inducted Brian Epstein and Andrew Oldham into the Rock and Roll […]
It's the return of in-person live audiences on Go Fact Yourself! Larry Wilmore has been seen in everything from “The Office,” “Black-ish,” “The Nightly Show,” and so much more. He'll tell us how his illustrious career as an actor started on “The Facts of Life,” where he played a Greek cop. As he's built up his body of work, he's developed a passion for conversations and (well-intentioned) disagreements. You can hear some of those on his podcast “Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air.”Denise Crosby is best known for her portrayal of Security Chief Tasha Yar on “Star Trek.” She's also known for her role on “The Walking Dead” where she played a mother… who happened to be a cannibal. She'll tell us about that and what it was like to pose for “Playboy” magazine in the 80s.Our contestants will have a trivia battle about music from across the pond and swimming down the pool!What's the Difference: CoaxWhat's the difference between “convince” and “persuade”?What's the difference between “Diet Coke” and “Coke Zero Sugar”?Areas of Expertise:Larry: Beatles lyrics, the original Star Wars trilogy, and the Showtime era of the Los Angeles Lakers.Denise: Pitbulls, the movie Airport, and how to make the perfect flip-turn at the wall while swimming.Appearing in this episode:J. Keith van StraatenHelen HongLarry WilmoreDenise CrosbyWith guest experts:Peter Asher, multiple Grammy-winning producer, guitarist and singer.Kimberly Vandenberg, Olympic medalist swimmer with team USA.Go Fact Yourself was devised and is produced by Jim Newman and J. Keith van Straaten, in collaboration with Maximum Fun. Theme Song by Jonathan Green.Maximum Fun's Senior Producer is Laura Swisher.Associate Producer and Editor is Julian Burrell.Continuing to be vigilant about COVID by YOU!
This week's episode looks at “All You Need is Love”, the Our World TV special, and the career of the Beatles from April 1966 through August 1967. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a thirteen-minute bonus episode available, on "Rain" by the Beatles. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt's irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ NB for the first few hours this was up, there was a slight editing glitch. If you downloaded the old version and don't want to redownload the whole thing, just look in the transcript for "Other than fixing John's two flubbed" for the text of the two missing paragraphs. Errata I say "Come Together" was a B-side, but the single was actually a double A-side. Also, I say the Lennon interview by Maureen Cleave appeared in Detroit magazine. That's what my source (Steve Turner's book) says, but someone on Twitter says that rather than Detroit magazine it was the Detroit Free Press. Also at one point I say "the videos for 'Paperback Writer' and 'Penny Lane'". I meant to say "Rain" rather than "Penny Lane" there. Resources No Mixcloud this week due to the number of songs by the Beatles. I have read literally dozens of books on the Beatles, and used bits of information from many of them. All my Beatles episodes refer to: The Complete Beatles Chronicle by Mark Lewisohn, All The Songs: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Release by Jean-Michel Guesdon, And The Band Begins To Play: The Definitive Guide To The Songs of The Beatles by Steve Lambley, The Beatles By Ear by Kevin Moore, Revolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald, and The Beatles Anthology. For this episode, I also referred to Last Interview by David Sheff, a longform interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono from shortly before Lennon's death; Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, an authorised biography of Paul McCartney; and Here, There, and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles by Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey. Particularly useful this time was Steve Turner's book Beatles '66. I also used Turner's The Beatles: The Stories Behind the Songs 1967-1970. Johnny Rogan's Starmakers and Svengalis had some information on Epstein I hadn't seen anywhere else. Some information about the "Bigger than Jesus" scandal comes from Ward, B. (2012). “The ‘C' is for Christ”: Arthur Unger, Datebook Magazine and the Beatles. Popular Music and Society, 35(4), 541-560. https://doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2011.608978 Information on Robert Stigwood comes from Mr Showbiz by Stephen Dando-Collins. And the quote at the end from Simon Napier-Bell is from You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, which is more entertaining than it is accurate, but is very entertaining. Sadly the only way to get the single mix of "All You Need is Love" is on this ludicrously-expensive out-of-print box set, but the stereo mix is easily available on Magical Mystery Tour. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript A quick note before I start the episode -- this episode deals, in part, with the deaths of three gay men -- one by murder, one by suicide, and one by an accidental overdose, all linked at least in part to societal homophobia. I will try to deal with this as tactfully as I can, but anyone who's upset by those things might want to read the transcript instead of listening to the episode. This is also a very, very, *very* long episode -- this is likely to be the longest episode I *ever* do of this podcast, so settle in. We're going to be here a while. I obviously don't know how long it's going to be while I'm still recording, but based on the word count of my script, probably in the region of three hours. You have been warned. In 1967 the actor Patrick McGoohan was tired. He had been working on the hit series Danger Man for many years -- Danger Man had originally run from 1960 through 1962, then had taken a break, and had come back, retooled, with longer episodes in 1964. That longer series was a big hit, both in the UK and in the US, where it was retitled Secret Agent and had a new theme tune written by PF Sloan and Steve Barri and recorded by Johnny Rivers: [Excerpt: Johnny Rivers, "Secret Agent Man"] But McGoohan was tired of playing John Drake, the agent, and announced he was going to quit the series. Instead, with the help of George Markstein, Danger Man's script editor, he created a totally new series, in which McGoohan would star, and which McGoohan would also write and direct key episodes of. This new series, The Prisoner, featured a spy who is only ever given the name Number Six, and who many fans -- though not McGoohan himself -- took to be the same character as John Drake. Number Six resigns from his job as a secret agent, and is kidnapped and taken to a place known only as The Village -- the series was filmed in Portmeirion, an unusual-looking town in Gwynnedd, in North Wales -- which is full of other ex-agents. There he is interrogated to try to find out why he has quit his job. It's never made clear whether the interrogators are his old employers or their enemies, and there's a certain suggestion that maybe there is no real distinction between the two sides, that they're both running the Village together. He spends the entire series trying to escape, but refuses to explain himself -- and there's some debate among viewers as to whether it's implied or not that part of the reason he doesn't explain himself is that he knows his interrogators wouldn't understand why he quit: [Excerpt: The Prisoner intro, from episode Once Upon a Time, ] Certainly that explanation would fit in with McGoohan's own personality. According to McGoohan, the final episode of The Prisoner was, at the time, the most watched TV show ever broadcast in the UK, as people tuned in to find out the identity of Number One, the person behind the Village, and to see if Number Six would break free. I don't think that's actually the case, but it's what McGoohan always claimed, and it was certainly a very popular series. I won't spoil the ending for those of you who haven't watched it -- it's a remarkable series -- but ultimately the series seems to decide that such questions don't matter and that even asking them is missing the point. It's a work that's open to multiple interpretations, and is left deliberately ambiguous, but one of the messages many people have taken away from it is that not only are we trapped by a society that oppresses us, we're also trapped by our own identities. You can run from the trap that society has placed you in, from other people's interpretations of your life, your work, and your motives, but you ultimately can't run from yourself, and any time you try to break out of a prison, you'll find yourself trapped in another prison of your own making. The most horrifying implication of the episode is that possibly even death itself won't be a release, and you will spend all eternity trying to escape from an identity you're trapped in. Viewers became so outraged, according to McGoohan, that he had to go into hiding for an extended period, and while his later claims that he never worked in Britain again are an exaggeration, it is true that for the remainder of his life he concentrated on doing work in the US instead, where he hadn't created such anger. That final episode of The Prisoner was also the only one to use a piece of contemporary pop music, in two crucial scenes: [Excerpt: The Prisoner, "Fall Out", "All You Need is Love"] Back in October 2020, we started what I thought would be a year-long look at the period from late 1962 through early 1967, but which has turned out for reasons beyond my control to take more like twenty months, with a song which was one of the last of the big pre-Beatles pop hits, though we looked at it after their first single, "Telstar" by the Tornadoes: [Excerpt: The Tornadoes, "Telstar"] There were many reasons for choosing that as one of the bookends for this fifty-episode chunk of the podcast -- you'll see many connections between that episode and this one if you listen to them back-to-back -- but among them was that it's a song inspired by the launch of the first ever communications satellite, and a sign of how the world was going to become smaller as the sixties went on. Of course, to start with communications satellites didn't do much in that regard -- they were expensive to use, and had limited bandwidth, and were only available during limited time windows, but symbolically they meant that for the first time ever, people could see and hear events thousands of miles away as they were happening. It's not a coincidence that Britain and France signed the agreement to develop Concorde, the first supersonic airliner, a month after the first Beatles single and four months after the Telstar satellite was launched. The world was becoming ever more interconnected -- people were travelling faster and further, getting news from other countries quicker, and there was more cultural conversation – and misunderstanding – between countries thousands of miles apart. The Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan, the man who also coined the phrase “the medium is the message”, thought that this ever-faster connection would fundamentally change basic modes of thought in the Western world. McLuhan thought that technology made possible whole new modes of thought, and that just as the printing press had, in his view, caused Western liberalism and individualism, so these new electronic media would cause the rise of a new collective mode of thought. In 1962, the year of Concorde, Telstar, and “Love Me Do”, McLuhan wrote a book called The Gutenberg Galaxy, in which he said: “Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence.… Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time.…” He coined the term “the Global Village” to describe this new collectivism. The story we've seen over the last fifty episodes is one of a sort of cultural ping-pong between the USA and the UK, with innovations in American music inspiring British musicians, who in turn inspired American ones, whether that being the Beatles covering the Isley Brothers or the Rolling Stones doing a Bobby Womack song, or Paul Simon and Bob Dylan coming over to the UK and learning folk songs and guitar techniques from Martin Carthy. And increasingly we're going to see those influences spread to other countries, and influences coming *from* other countries. We've already seen one Jamaican artist, and the influence of Indian music has become very apparent. While the focus of this series is going to remain principally in the British Isles and North America, rock music was and is a worldwide phenomenon, and that's going to become increasingly a part of the story. And so in this episode we're going to look at a live performance -- well, mostly live -- that was seen by hundreds of millions of people all over the world as it happened, thanks to the magic of satellites: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "All You Need is Love"] When we left the Beatles, they had just finished recording "Tomorrow Never Knows", the most experimental track they had recorded up to that date, and if not the most experimental thing they *ever* recorded certainly in the top handful. But "Tomorrow Never Knows" was only the first track they recorded in the sessions for what would become arguably their greatest album, and certainly the one that currently has the most respect from critics. It's interesting to note that that album could have been very, very, different. When we think of Revolver now, we think of the innovative production of George Martin, and of Geoff Emerick and Ken Townshend's inventive ideas for pushing the sound of the equipment in Abbey Road studios, but until very late in the day the album was going to be recorded in the Stax studios in Memphis, with Steve Cropper producing -- whether George Martin would have been involved or not is something we don't even know. In 1965, the Rolling Stones had, as we've seen, started making records in the US, recording in LA and at the Chess studios in Chicago, and the Yardbirds had also been doing the same thing. Mick Jagger had become a convert to the idea of using American studios and working with American musicians, and he had constantly been telling Paul McCartney that the Beatles should do the same. Indeed, they'd put some feelers out in 1965 about the possibility of the group making an album with Holland, Dozier, and Holland in Detroit. Quite how this would have worked is hard to figure out -- Holland, Dozier, and Holland's skills were as songwriters, and in their work with a particular set of musicians -- so it's unsurprising that came to nothing. But recording at Stax was a different matter. While Steve Cropper was a great songwriter in his own right, he was also adept at getting great sounds on covers of other people's material -- like on Otis Blue, the album he produced for Otis Redding in late 1965, which doesn't include a single Cropper original: [Excerpt: Otis Redding, "Satisfaction"] And the Beatles were very influenced by the records Stax were putting out, often namechecking Wilson Pickett in particular, and during the Rubber Soul sessions they had recorded a "Green Onions" soundalike track, imaginatively titled "12-Bar Original": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "12-Bar Original"] The idea of the group recording at Stax got far enough that they were actually booked in for two weeks starting the ninth of April, and there was even an offer from Elvis to let them stay at Graceland while they recorded, but then a couple of weeks earlier, the news leaked to the press, and Brian Epstein cancelled the booking. According to Cropper, Epstein talked about recording at the Atlantic studios in New York with him instead, but nothing went any further. It's hard to imagine what a Stax-based Beatles album would have been like, but even though it might have been a great album, it certainly wouldn't have been the Revolver we've come to know. Revolver is an unusual album in many ways, and one of the ways it's most distinct from the earlier Beatles albums is the dominance of keyboards. Both Lennon and McCartney had often written at the piano as well as the guitar -- McCartney more so than Lennon, but both had done so regularly -- but up to this point it had been normal for them to arrange the songs for guitars rather than keyboards, no matter how they'd started out. There had been the odd track where one of them, usually Lennon, would play a simple keyboard part, songs like "I'm Down" or "We Can Work it Out", but even those had been guitar records first and foremost. But on Revolver, that changed dramatically. There seems to have been a complex web of cause and effect here. Paul was becoming increasingly interested in moving his basslines away from simple walking basslines and root notes and the other staples of rock and roll basslines up to this point. As the sixties progressed, rock basslines were becoming ever more complex, and Tyler Mahan Coe has made a good case that this is largely down to innovations in production pioneered by Owen Bradley, and McCartney was certainly aware of Bradley's work -- he was a fan of Brenda Lee, who Bradley produced, for example. But the two influences that McCartney has mentioned most often in this regard are the busy, jazz-influenced, basslines that James Jamerson was playing at Motown: [Excerpt: The Four Tops, "It's the Same Old Song"] And the basslines that Brian Wilson was writing for various Wrecking Crew bassists to play for the Beach Boys: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)"] Just to be clear, McCartney didn't hear that particular track until partway through the recording of Revolver, when Bruce Johnston visited the UK and brought with him an advance copy of Pet Sounds, but Pet Sounds influenced the later part of Revolver's recording, and Wilson had already started his experiments in that direction with the group's 1965 work. It's much easier to write a song with this kind of bassline, one that's integral to the composition, on the piano than it is to write it on a guitar, as you can work out the bassline with your left hand while working out the chords and melody with your right, so the habit that McCartney had already developed of writing on the piano made this easier. But also, starting with the recording of "Paperback Writer", McCartney switched his style of working in the studio. Where up to this point it had been normal for him to play bass as part of the recording of the basic track, playing with the other Beatles, he now started to take advantage of multitracking to overdub his bass later, so he could spend extra time getting the bassline exactly right. McCartney lived closer to Abbey Road than the other three Beatles, and so could more easily get there early or stay late and tweak his parts. But if McCartney wasn't playing bass while the guitars and drums were being recorded, that meant he could play something else, and so increasingly he would play piano during the recording of the basic track. And that in turn would mean that there wouldn't always *be* a need for guitars on the track, because the harmonic support they would provide would be provided by the piano instead. This, as much as anything else, is the reason that Revolver sounds so radically different to any other Beatles album. Up to this point, with *very* rare exceptions like "Yesterday", every Beatles record, more or less, featured all four of the Beatles playing instruments. Now John and George weren't playing on "Good Day Sunshine" or "For No One", John wasn't playing on "Here, There, and Everywhere", "Eleanor Rigby" features no guitars or drums at all, and George's "Love You To" only features himself, plus a little tambourine from Ringo (Paul recorded a part for that one, but it doesn't seem to appear on the finished track). Of the three songwriting Beatles, the only one who at this point was consistently requiring the instrumental contributions of all the other band members was John, and even he did without Paul on "She Said, She Said", which by all accounts features either John or George on bass, after Paul had a rare bout of unprofessionalism and left the studio. Revolver is still an album made by a group -- and most of those tracks that don't feature John or George instrumentally still feature them vocally -- it's still a collaborative work in all the best ways. But it's no longer an album made by four people playing together in the same room at the same time. After starting work on "Tomorrow Never Knows", the next track they started work on was Paul's "Got to Get You Into My Life", but as it would turn out they would work on that song throughout most of the sessions for the album -- in a sign of how the group would increasingly work from this point on, Paul's song was subject to multiple re-recordings and tweakings in the studio, as he tinkered to try to make it perfect. The first recording to be completed for the album, though, was almost as much of a departure in its own way as "Tomorrow Never Knows" had been. George's song "Love You To" shows just how inspired he was by the music of Ravi Shankar, and how devoted he was to Indian music. While a few months earlier he had just about managed to pick out a simple melody on the sitar for "Norwegian Wood", by this point he was comfortable enough with Indian classical music that I've seen many, many sources claim that an outside session player is playing sitar on the track, though Anil Bhagwat, the tabla player on the track, always insisted that it was entirely Harrison's playing: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love You To"] There is a *lot* of debate as to whether it's George playing on the track, and I feel a little uncomfortable making a definitive statement in either direction. On the one hand I find it hard to believe that Harrison got that good that quickly on an unfamiliar instrument, when we know he wasn't a naturally facile musician. All the stories we have about his work in the studio suggest that he had to work very hard on his guitar solos, and that he would frequently fluff them. As a technical guitarist, Harrison was only mediocre -- his value lay in his inventiveness, not in technical ability -- and he had been playing guitar for over a decade, but sitar only a few months. There's also some session documentation suggesting that an unknown sitar player was hired. On the other hand there's the testimony of Anil Bhagwat that Harrison played the part himself, and he has been very firm on the subject, saying "If you go on the Internet there are a lot of questions asked about "Love You To". They say 'It's not George playing the sitar'. I can tell you here and now -- 100 percent it was George on sitar throughout. There were no other musicians involved. It was just me and him." And several people who are more knowledgeable than myself about the instrument have suggested that the sitar part on the track is played the way that a rock guitarist would play rather than the way someone with more knowledge of Indian classical music would play -- there's a blues feeling to some of the bends that apparently no genuine Indian classical musician would naturally do. I would suggest that the best explanation is that there's a professional sitar player trying to replicate a part that Harrison had previously demonstrated, while Harrison was in turn trying his best to replicate the sound of Ravi Shankar's work. Certainly the instrumental section sounds far more fluent, and far more stylistically correct, than one would expect: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love You To"] Where previous attempts at what got called "raga-rock" had taken a couple of surface features of Indian music -- some form of a drone, perhaps a modal scale -- and had generally used a guitar made to sound a little bit like a sitar, or had a sitar playing normal rock riffs, Harrison's song seems to be a genuine attempt to hybridise Indian ragas and rock music, combining the instrumentation, modes, and rhythmic complexity of someone like Ravi Shankar with lyrics that are seemingly inspired by Bob Dylan and a fairly conventional pop song structure (and a tiny bit of fuzz guitar). It's a record that could only be made by someone who properly understood both the Indian music he's emulating and the conventions of the Western pop song, and understood how those conventions could work together. Indeed, one thing I've rarely seen pointed out is how cleverly the album is sequenced, so that "Love You To" is followed by possibly the most conventional song on Revolver, "Here, There, and Everywhere", which was recorded towards the end of the sessions. Both songs share a distinctive feature not shared by the rest of the album, so the two songs can sound more of a pair than they otherwise would, retrospectively making "Love You To" seem more conventional than it is and "Here, There, and Everywhere" more unconventional -- both have as an introduction a separate piece of music that states some of the melodic themes of the rest of the song but isn't repeated later. In the case of "Love You To" it's the free-tempo bit at the beginning, characteristic of a lot of Indian music: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love You To"] While in the case of "Here, There, and Everywhere" it's the part that mimics an older style of songwriting, a separate intro of the type that would have been called a verse when written by the Gershwins or Cole Porter, but of course in the intervening decades "verse" had come to mean something else, so we now no longer have a specific term for this kind of intro -- but as you can hear, it's doing very much the same thing as that "Love You To" intro: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Here, There, and Everywhere"] In the same day as the group completed "Love You To", overdubbing George's vocal and Ringo's tambourine, they also started work on a song that would show off a lot of the new techniques they had been working on in very different ways. Paul's "Paperback Writer" could indeed be seen as part of a loose trilogy with "Love You To" and "Tomorrow Never Knows", one song by each of the group's three songwriters exploring the idea of a song that's almost all on one chord. Both "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Love You To" are based on a drone with occasional hints towards moving to one other chord. In the case of "Paperback Writer", the entire song stays on a single chord until the title -- it's on a G7 throughout until the first use of the word "writer", when it quickly goes to a C for two bars. I'm afraid I'm going to have to sing to show you how little the chords actually change, because the riff disguises this lack of movement somewhat, but the melody is also far more horizontal than most of McCartney's, so this shouldn't sound too painful, I hope: [demonstrates] This is essentially the exact same thing that both "Love You To" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" do, and all three have very similarly structured rising and falling modal melodies. There's also a bit of "Paperback Writer" that seems to tie directly into "Love You To", but also points to a possible very non-Indian inspiration for part of "Love You To". The Beach Boys' single "Sloop John B" was released in the UK a couple of days after the sessions for "Paperback Writer" and "Love You To", but it had been released in the US a month before, and the Beatles all got copies of every record in the American top thirty shipped to them. McCartney and Harrison have specifically pointed to it as an influence on "Paperback Writer". "Sloop John B" has a section where all the instruments drop out and we're left with just the group's vocal harmonies: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Sloop John B"] And that seems to have been the inspiration behind the similar moment at a similar point in "Paperback Writer", which is used in place of a middle eight and also used for the song's intro: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Paperback Writer"] Which is very close to what Harrison does at the end of each verse of "Love You To", where the instruments drop out for him to sing a long melismatic syllable before coming back in: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love You To"] Essentially, other than "Got to Get You Into My Life", which is an outlier and should not be counted, the first three songs attempted during the Revolver sessions are variations on a common theme, and it's a sign that no matter how different the results might sound, the Beatles really were very much a group at this point, and were sharing ideas among themselves and developing those ideas in similar ways. "Paperback Writer" disguises what it's doing somewhat by having such a strong riff. Lennon referred to "Paperback Writer" as "son of 'Day Tripper'", and in terms of the Beatles' singles it's actually their third iteration of this riff idea, which they originally got from Bobby Parker's "Watch Your Step": [Excerpt: Bobby Parker, "Watch Your Step"] Which became the inspiration for "I Feel Fine": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I Feel Fine"] Which they varied for "Day Tripper": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Day Tripper"] And which then in turn got varied for "Paperback Writer": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Paperback Writer"] As well as compositional ideas, there are sonic ideas shared between "Paperback Writer", "Tomorrow Never Knows", and "Love You To", and which would be shared by the rest of the tracks the Beatles recorded in the first half of 1966. Since Geoff Emerick had become the group's principal engineer, they'd started paying more attention to how to get a fuller sound, and so Emerick had miced the tabla on "Love You To" much more closely than anyone would normally mic an instrument from classical music, creating a deep, thudding sound, and similarly he had changed the way they recorded the drums on "Tomorrow Never Knows", again giving a much fuller sound. But the group also wanted the kind of big bass sounds they'd loved on records coming out of America -- sounds that no British studio was getting, largely because it was believed that if you cut too loud a bass sound into a record it would make the needle jump out of the groove. The new engineering team of Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott, though, thought that it was likely you could keep the needle in the groove if you had a smoother frequency response. You could do that if you used a microphone with a larger diaphragm to record the bass, but how could you do that? Inspiration finally struck -- loudspeakers are actually the same thing as microphones wired the other way round, so if you wired up a loudspeaker as if it were a microphone you could get a *really big* speaker, place it in front of the bass amp, and get a much stronger bass sound. The experiment wasn't a total success -- the sound they got had to be processed quite extensively to get rid of room noise, and then compressed in order to further prevent the needle-jumping issue, and so it's a muddier, less defined, tone than they would have liked, but one thing that can't be denied is that "Paperback Writer"'s bass sound is much, much, louder than on any previous Beatles record: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Paperback Writer"] Almost every track the group recorded during the Revolver sessions involved all sorts of studio innovations, though rarely anything as truly revolutionary as the artificial double-tracking they'd used on "Tomorrow Never Knows", and which also appeared on "Paperback Writer" -- indeed, as "Paperback Writer" was released several months before Revolver, it became the first record released to use the technique. I could easily devote a good ten minutes to every track on Revolver, and to "Paperback Writer"s B-side, "Rain", but this is already shaping up to be an extraordinarily long episode and there's a lot of material to get through, so I'll break my usual pattern of devoting a Patreon bonus episode to something relatively obscure, and this week's bonus will be on "Rain" itself. "Paperback Writer", though, deserved the attention here even though it was not one of the group's more successful singles -- it did go to number one, but it didn't hit number one in the UK charts straight away, being kept off the top by "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra for the first week: [Excerpt: Frank Sinatra, "Strangers in the Night"] Coincidentally, "Strangers in the Night" was co-written by Bert Kaempfert, the German musician who had produced the group's very first recording sessions with Tony Sheridan back in 1961. On the group's German tour in 1966 they met up with Kaempfert again, and John greeted him by singing the first couple of lines of the Sinatra record. The single was the lowest-selling Beatles single in the UK since "Love Me Do". In the US it only made number one for two non-consecutive weeks, with "Strangers in the Night" knocking it off for a week in between. Now, by literally any other band's standards, that's still a massive hit, and it was the Beatles' tenth UK number one in a row (or ninth, depending on which chart you use for "Please Please Me"), but it's a sign that the group were moving out of the first phase of total unequivocal dominance of the charts. It was a turning point in a lot of other ways as well. Up to this point, while the group had been experimenting with different lyrical subjects on album tracks, every single had lyrics about romantic relationships -- with the possible exception of "Help!", which was about Lennon's emotional state but written in such a way that it could be heard as a plea to a lover. But in the case of "Paperback Writer", McCartney was inspired by his Aunt Mill asking him "Why do you write songs about love all the time? Can you ever write about a horse or the summit conference or something interesting?" His response was to think "All right, Aunt Mill, I'll show you", and to come up with a lyric that was very much in the style of the social satires that bands like the Kinks were releasing at the time. People often miss the humour in the lyric for "Paperback Writer", but there's a huge amount of comedy in lyrics about someone writing to a publisher saying they'd written a book based on someone else's book, and one can only imagine the feeling of weary recognition in slush-pile readers throughout the world as they heard the enthusiastic "It's a thousand pages, give or take a few, I'll be writing more in a week or two. I can make it longer..." From this point on, the group wouldn't release a single that was unambiguously about a romantic relationship until "The Ballad of John and Yoko", the last single released while the band were still together. "Paperback Writer" also saw the Beatles for the first time making a promotional film -- what we would now call a rock video -- rather than make personal appearances on TV shows. The film was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who the group would work with again in 1969, and shows Paul with a chipped front tooth -- he'd been in an accident while riding mopeds with his friend Tara Browne a few months earlier, and hadn't yet got round to having the tooth capped. When he did, the change in his teeth was one of the many bits of evidence used by conspiracy theorists to prove that the real Paul McCartney was dead and replaced by a lookalike. It also marks a change in who the most prominent Beatle on the group's A-sides was. Up to this point, Paul had had one solo lead on an A-side -- "Can't Buy Me Love" -- and everything else had been either a song with multiple vocalists like "Day Tripper" or "Love Me Do", or a song with a clear John lead like "Ticket to Ride" or "I Feel Fine". In the rest of their career, counting "Paperback Writer", the group would release nine new singles that hadn't already been included on an album. Of those nine singles, one was a double A-side with one John song and one Paul song, two had John songs on the A-side, and the other six were Paul. Where up to this point John had been "lead Beatle", for the rest of the sixties, Paul would be the group's driving force. Oddly, Paul got rather defensive about the record when asked about it in interviews after it failed to go straight to the top, saying "It's not our best single by any means, but we're very satisfied with it". But especially in its original mono mix it actually packs a powerful punch: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Paperback Writer"] When the "Paperback Writer" single was released, an unusual image was used in the advertising -- a photo of the Beatles dressed in butchers' smocks, covered in blood, with chunks of meat and the dismembered body parts of baby dolls lying around on them. The image was meant as part of a triptych parodying religious art -- the photo on the left was to be an image showing the four Beatles connected to a woman by an umbilical cord made of sausages, the middle panel was meant to be this image, but with halos added over the Beatles' heads, and the panel on the right was George hammering a nail into John's head, symbolising both crucifixion and that the group were real, physical, people, not just images to be worshipped -- these weren't imaginary nails, and they weren't imaginary people. The photographer Robert Whittaker later said: “I did a photograph of the Beatles covered in raw meat, dolls and false teeth. Putting meat, dolls and false teeth with The Beatles is essentially part of the same thing, the breakdown of what is regarded as normal. The actual conception for what I still call “Somnambulant Adventure” was Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. He comes across people worshipping a golden calf. All over the world I'd watched people worshiping like idols, like gods, four Beatles. To me they were just stock standard normal people. But this emotion that fans poured on them made me wonder where Christianity was heading.” The image wasn't that controversial in the UK, when it was used to advertise "Paperback Writer", but in the US it was initially used for the cover of an album, Yesterday... And Today, which was made up of a few tracks that had been left off the US versions of the Rubber Soul and Help! albums, plus both sides of the "We Can Work It Out"/"Day Tripper" single, and three rough mixes of songs that had been recorded for Revolver -- "Doctor Robert", "And Your Bird Can Sing", and "I'm Only Sleeping", which was the song that sounded most different from the mixes that were finally released: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I'm Only Sleeping (Yesterday... and Today mix)"] Those three songs were all Lennon songs, which had the unfortunate effect that when the US version of Revolver was brought out later in the year, only two of the songs on the album were by Lennon, with six by McCartney and three by Harrison. Some have suggested that this was the motivation for the use of the butcher image on the cover of Yesterday... And Today -- saying it was the Beatles' protest against Capitol "butchering" their albums -- but in truth it was just that Capitol's art director chose the cover because he liked the image. Alan Livingston, the president of Capitol was not so sure, and called Brian Epstein to ask if the group would be OK with them using a different image. Epstein checked with John Lennon, but Lennon liked the image and so Epstein told Livingston the group insisted on them using that cover. Even though for the album cover the bloodstains on the butchers' smocks were airbrushed out, after Capitol had pressed up a million copies of the mono version of the album and two hundred thousand copies of the stereo version, and they'd sent out sixty thousand promo copies, they discovered that no record shops would stock the album with that cover. It cost Capitol more than two hundred thousand dollars to recall the album and replace the cover with a new one -- though while many of the covers were destroyed, others had the new cover, with a more acceptable photo of the group, pasted over them, and people have later carefully steamed off the sticker to reveal the original. This would not be the last time in 1966 that something that was intended as a statement on religion and the way people viewed the Beatles would cause the group trouble in America. In the middle of the recording sessions for Revolver, the group also made what turned out to be their last ever UK live performance in front of a paying audience. The group had played the NME Poll-Winners' Party every year since 1963, and they were always shows that featured all the biggest acts in the country at the time -- the 1966 show featured, as well as the Beatles and a bunch of smaller acts, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Yardbirds, Roy Orbison, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, the Seekers, the Small Faces, the Walker Brothers, and Dusty Springfield. Unfortunately, while these events were always filmed for TV broadcast, the Beatles' performance on the first of May wasn't filmed. There are various stories about what happened, but the crux appears to be a disagreement between Andrew Oldham and Brian Epstein, sparked by John Lennon. When the Beatles got to the show, they were upset to discover that they had to wait around before going on stage -- normally, the awards would all be presented at the end, after all the performances, but the Rolling Stones had asked that the Beatles not follow them directly, so after the Stones finished their set, there would be a break for the awards to be given out, and then the Beatles would play their set, in front of an audience that had been bored by twenty-five minutes of awards ceremony, rather than one that had been excited by all the bands that came before them. John Lennon was annoyed, and insisted that the Beatles were going to go on straight after the Rolling Stones -- he seems to have taken this as some sort of power play by the Stones and to have got his hackles up about it. He told Epstein to deal with the people from the NME. But the NME people said that they had a contract with Andrew Oldham, and they weren't going to break it. Oldham refused to change the terms of the contract. Lennon said that he wasn't going to go on stage if they didn't directly follow the Stones. Maurice Kinn, the publisher of the NME, told Epstein that he wasn't going to break the contract with Oldham, and that if the Beatles didn't appear on stage, he would get Jimmy Savile, who was compering the show, to go out on stage and tell the ten thousand fans in the audience that the Beatles were backstage refusing to appear. He would then sue NEMS for breach of contract *and* NEMS would be liable for any damage caused by the rioting that was sure to happen. Lennon screamed a lot of abuse at Kinn, and told him the group would never play one of their events again, but the group did go on stage -- but because they hadn't yet signed the agreement to allow their performance to be filmed, they refused to allow it to be recorded. Apparently Andrew Oldham took all this as a sign that Epstein was starting to lose control of the group. Also during May 1966 there were visits from musicians from other countries, continuing the cultural exchange that was increasingly influencing the Beatles' art. Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys came over to promote the group's new LP, Pet Sounds, which had been largely the work of Brian Wilson, who had retired from touring to concentrate on working in the studio. Johnston played the record for John and Paul, who listened to it twice, all the way through, in silence, in Johnston's hotel room: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows"] According to Johnston, after they'd listened through the album twice, they went over to a piano and started whispering to each other, picking out chords. Certainly the influence of Pet Sounds is very noticeable on songs like "Here, There, and Everywhere", written and recorded a few weeks after this meeting: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Here, There, and Everywhere"] That track, and the last track recorded for the album, "She Said She Said" were unusual in one very important respect -- they were recorded while the Beatles were no longer under contract to EMI Records. Their contract expired on the fifth of June, 1966, and they finished Revolver without it having been renewed -- it would be several months before their new contract was signed, and it's rather lucky for music lovers that Brian Epstein was the kind of manager who considered personal relationships and basic honour and decency more important than the legal niceties, unlike any other managers of the era, otherwise we would not have Revolver in the form we know it today. After the meeting with Johnston, but before the recording of those last couple of Revolver tracks, the Beatles also met up again with Bob Dylan, who was on a UK tour with a new, loud, band he was working with called The Hawks. While the Beatles and Dylan all admired each other, there was by this point a lot of wariness on both sides, especially between Lennon and Dylan, both of them very similar personality types and neither wanting to let their guard down around the other or appear unhip. There's a famous half-hour-long film sequence of Lennon and Dylan sharing a taxi, which is a fascinating, excruciating, example of two insecure but arrogant men both trying desperately to impress the other but also equally desperate not to let the other know that they want to impress them: [Excerpt: Dylan and Lennon taxi ride] The day that was filmed, Lennon and Harrison also went to see Dylan play at the Royal Albert Hall. This tour had been controversial, because Dylan's band were loud and raucous, and Dylan's fans in the UK still thought of him as a folk musician. At one gig, earlier on the tour, an audience member had famously yelled out "Judas!" -- (just on the tiny chance that any of my listeners don't know that, Judas was the disciple who betrayed Jesus to the authorities, leading to his crucifixion) -- and that show was for many years bootlegged as the "Royal Albert Hall" show, though in fact it was recorded at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. One of the *actual* Royal Albert Hall shows was released a few years ago -- the one the night before Lennon and Harrison saw Dylan: [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone", Royal Albert Hall 1966] The show Lennon and Harrison saw would be Dylan's last for many years. Shortly after returning to the US, Dylan was in a motorbike accident, the details of which are still mysterious, and which some fans claim was faked altogether. The accident caused him to cancel all the concert dates he had booked, and devote himself to working in the studio for several years just like Brian Wilson. And from even further afield than America, Ravi Shankar came over to Britain, to work with his friend the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, on a duet album, West Meets East, that was an example in the classical world of the same kind of international cross-fertilisation that was happening in the pop world: [Excerpt: Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar, "Prabhati (based on Raga Gunkali)"] While he was in the UK, Shankar also performed at the Royal Festival Hall, and George Harrison went to the show. He'd seen Shankar live the year before, but this time he met up with him afterwards, and later said "He was the first person that impressed me in a way that was beyond just being a famous celebrity. Ravi was my link to the Vedic world. Ravi plugged me into the whole of reality. Elvis impressed me when I was a kid, and impressed me when I met him, but you couldn't later on go round to him and say 'Elvis, what's happening with the universe?'" After completing recording and mixing the as-yet-unnamed album, which had been by far the longest recording process of their career, and which still nearly sixty years later regularly tops polls of the best album of all time, the Beatles took a well-earned break. For a whole two days, at which point they flew off to Germany to do a three-day tour, on their way to Japan, where they were booked to play five shows at the Budokan. Unfortunately for the group, while they had no idea of this when they were booked to do the shows, many in Japan saw the Budokan as sacred ground, and they were the first ever Western group to play there. This led to numerous death threats and loud protests from far-right activists offended at the Beatles defiling their religious and nationalistic sensibilities. As a result, the police were on high alert -- so high that there were three thousand police in the audience for the shows, in a venue which only held ten thousand audience members. That's according to Mark Lewisohn's Complete Beatles Chronicle, though I have to say that the rather blurry footage of the audience in the video of those shows doesn't seem to show anything like those numbers. But frankly I'll take Lewisohn's word over that footage, as he's not someone to put out incorrect information. The threats to the group also meant that they had to be kept in their hotel rooms at all times except when actually performing, though they did make attempts to get out. At the press conference for the Tokyo shows, the group were also asked publicly for the first time their views on the war in Vietnam, and John replied "Well, we think about it every day, and we don't agree with it and we think that it's wrong. That's how much interest we take. That's all we can do about it... and say that we don't like it". I say they were asked publicly for the first time, because George had been asked about it for a series of interviews Maureen Cleave had done with the group a couple of months earlier, as we'll see in a bit, but nobody was paying attention to those interviews. Brian Epstein was upset that the question had gone to John. He had hoped that the inevitable Vietnam question would go to Paul, who he thought might be a bit more tactful. The last thing he needed was John Lennon saying something that would upset the Americans before their tour there a few weeks later. Luckily, people in America seemed to have better things to do than pay attention to John Lennon's opinions. The support acts for the Japanese shows included several of the biggest names in Japanese rock music -- or "group sounds" as the genre was called there, Japanese people having realised that trying to say the phrase "rock and roll" would open them up to ridicule given that it had both "r" and "l" sounds in the phrase. The man who had coined the term "group sounds", Jackey Yoshikawa, was there with his group the Blue Comets, as was Isao Bito, who did a rather good cover version of Cliff Richard's "Dynamite": [Excerpt: Isao Bito, "Dynamite"] Bito, the Blue Comets, and the other two support acts, Yuya Uchida and the Blue Jeans, all got together to perform a specially written song, "Welcome Beatles": [Excerpt: "Welcome Beatles" ] But while the Japanese audience were enthusiastic, they were much less vocal about their enthusiasm than the audiences the Beatles were used to playing for. The group were used, of course, to playing in front of hordes of screaming teenagers who could not hear a single note, but because of the fear that a far-right terrorist would assassinate one of the group members, the police had imposed very, very, strict rules on the audience. Nobody in the audience was allowed to get out of their seat for any reason, and the police would clamp down very firmly on anyone who was too demonstrative. Because of that, the group could actually hear themselves, and they sounded sloppy as hell, especially on the newer material. Not that there was much of that. The only song they did from the Revolver sessions was "Paperback Writer", the new single, and while they did do a couple of tracks from Rubber Soul, those were under-rehearsed. As John said at the start of this tour, "I can't play any of Rubber Soul, it's so unrehearsed. The only time I played any of the numbers on it was when I recorded it. I forget about songs. They're only valid for a certain time." That's certainly borne out by the sound of their performances of Rubber Soul material at the Budokan: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "If I Needed Someone (live at the Budokan)"] It was while they were in Japan as well that they finally came up with the title for their new album. They'd been thinking of all sorts of ideas, like Abracadabra and Magic Circle, and tossing names around with increasing desperation for several days -- at one point they seem to have just started riffing on other groups' albums, and seem to have apparently seriously thought about naming the record in parodic tribute to their favourite artists -- suggestions included The Beatles On Safari, after the Beach Boys' Surfin' Safari (and possibly with a nod to their recent Pet Sounds album cover with animals, too), The Freewheelin' Beatles, after Dylan's second album, and my favourite, Ringo's suggestion After Geography, for the Rolling Stones' Aftermath. But eventually Paul came up with Revolver -- like Rubber Soul, a pun, in this case because the record itself revolves when on a turntable. Then it was off to the Philippines, and if the group thought Japan had been stressful, they had no idea what was coming. The trouble started in the Philippines from the moment they stepped off the plane, when they were bundled into a car without Neil Aspinall or Brian Epstein, and without their luggage, which was sent to customs. This was a problem in itself -- the group had got used to essentially being treated like diplomats, and to having their baggage let through customs without being searched, and so they'd started freely carrying various illicit substances with them. This would obviously be a problem -- but as it turned out, this was just to get a "customs charge" paid by Brian Epstein. But during their initial press conference the group were worried, given the hostility they'd faced from officialdom, that they were going to be arrested during the conference itself. They were asked what they would tell the Rolling Stones, who were going to be visiting the Philippines shortly after, and Lennon just said "We'll warn them". They also asked "is there a war on in the Philippines? Why is everybody armed?" At this time, the Philippines had a new leader, Ferdinand Marcos -- who is not to be confused with his son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, also known as Bongbong Marcos, who just became President-Elect there last month. Marcos Sr was a dictatorial kleptocrat, one of the worst leaders of the latter half of the twentieth century, but that wasn't evident yet. He'd been elected only a few months earlier, and had presented himself as a Kennedy-like figure -- a young man who was also a war hero. He'd recently switched parties from the Liberal party to the right-wing Nacionalista Party, but wasn't yet being thought of as the monstrous dictator he later became. The person organising the Philippines shows had been ordered to get the Beatles to visit Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos at 11AM on the day of the show, but for some reason had instead put on their itinerary just the *suggestion* that the group should meet the Marcoses, and had put the time down as 3PM, and the Beatles chose to ignore that suggestion -- they'd refused to do that kind of government-official meet-and-greet ever since an incident in 1964 at the British Embassy in Washington where someone had cut off a bit of Ringo's hair. A military escort turned up at the group's hotel in the morning, to take them for their meeting. The group were all still in their rooms, and Brian Epstein was still eating breakfast and refused to disturb them, saying "Go back and tell the generals we're not coming." The group gave their performances as scheduled, but meanwhile there was outrage at the way the Beatles had refused to meet the Marcos family, who had brought hundreds of children -- friends of their own children, and relatives of top officials -- to a party to meet the group. Brian Epstein went on TV and tried to smooth things over, but the broadcast was interrupted by static and his message didn't get through to anyone. The next day, the group's security was taken away, as were the cars to take them to the airport. When they got to the airport, the escalators were turned off and the group were beaten up at the arrangement of the airport manager, who said in 1984 "I beat up the Beatles. I really thumped them. First I socked Epstein and he went down... then I socked Lennon and Ringo in the face. I was kicking them. They were pleading like frightened chickens. That's what happens when you insult the First Lady." Even on the plane there were further problems -- Brian Epstein and the group's road manager Mal Evans were both made to get off the plane to sort out supposed financial discrepancies, which led to them worrying that they were going to be arrested or worse -- Evans told the group to tell his wife he loved her as he left the plane. But eventually, they were able to leave, and after a brief layover in India -- which Ringo later said was the first time he felt he'd been somewhere truly foreign, as opposed to places like Germany or the USA which felt basically like home -- they got back to England: [Excerpt: "Ordinary passenger!"] When asked what they were going to do next, George replied “We're going to have a couple of weeks to recuperate before we go and get beaten up by the Americans,” The story of the "we're bigger than Jesus" controversy is one of the most widely misreported events in the lives of the Beatles, which is saying a great deal. One book that I've encountered, and one book only, Steve Turner's Beatles '66, tells the story of what actually happened, and even that book seems to miss some emphases. I've pieced what follows together from Turner's book and from an academic journal article I found which has some more detail. As far as I can tell, every single other book on the Beatles released up to this point bases their account of the story on an inaccurate press statement put out by Brian Epstein, not on the truth. Here's the story as it's generally told. John Lennon gave an interview to his friend, Maureen Cleave of the Evening Standard, during which he made some comments about how it was depressing that Christianity was losing relevance in the eyes of the public, and that the Beatles are more popular than Jesus, speaking casually because he was talking to a friend. That story was run in the Evening Standard more-or-less unnoticed, but then an American teen magazine picked up on the line about the Beatles being bigger than Jesus, reprinted chunks of the interview out of context and without the Beatles' knowledge or permission, as a way to stir up controversy, and there was an outcry, with people burning Beatles records and death threats from the Ku Klux Klan. That's... not exactly what happened. The first thing that you need to understand to know what happened is that Datebook wasn't a typical teen magazine. It *looked* just like a typical teen magazine, certainly, and much of its content was the kind of thing that you would get in Tiger Beat or any of the other magazines aimed at teenage girls -- the September 1966 issue was full of articles like "Life with the Walker Brothers... by their Road Manager", and interviews with the Dave Clark Five -- but it also had a long history of publishing material that was intended to make its readers think about social issues of the time, particularly Civil Rights. Arthur Unger, the magazine's editor and publisher, was a gay man in an interracial relationship, and while the subject of homosexuality was too taboo in the late fifties and sixties for him to have his magazine cover that, he did regularly include articles decrying segregation and calling for the girls reading the magazine to do their part on a personal level to stamp out racism. Datebook had regularly contained articles like one from 1963 talking about how segregation wasn't just a problem in the South, saying "If we are so ‘integrated' why must men in my own city of Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love, picket city hall because they are discriminated against when it comes to getting a job? And how come I am still unable to take my dark- complexioned friends to the same roller skating rink or swimming pool that I attend?” One of the writers for the magazine later said “We were much more than an entertainment magazine . . . . We tried to get kids involved in social issues . . . . It was a well-received magazine, recommended by libraries and schools, but during the Civil Rights period we did get pulled off a lot of stands in the South because of our views on integration” Art Unger, the editor and publisher, wasn't the only one pushing this liberal, integrationist, agenda. The managing editor at the time, Danny Fields, was another gay man who wanted to push the magazine even further than Unger, and who would later go on to manage the Stooges and the Ramones, being credited by some as being the single most important figure in punk rock's development, and being immortalised by the Ramones in their song "Danny Says": [Excerpt: The Ramones, "Danny Says"] So this was not a normal teen magazine, and that's certainly shown by the cover of the September 1966 issue, which as well as talking about the interviews with John Lennon and Paul McCartney inside, also advertised articles on Timothy Leary advising people to turn on, tune in, and drop out; an editorial about how interracial dating must be the next step after desegregation of schools, and a piece on "the ten adults you dig/hate the most" -- apparently the adult most teens dug in 1966 was Jackie Kennedy, the most hated was Barry Goldwater, and President Johnson, Billy Graham, and Martin Luther King appeared in the top ten on both lists. Now, in the early part of the year Maureen Cleave had done a whole series of articles on the Beatles -- double-page spreads on each band member, plus Brian Epstein, visiting them in their own homes (apart from Paul, who she met at a restaurant) and discussing their daily lives, their thoughts, and portraying them as rounded individuals. These articles are actually fascinating, because of something that everyone who met the Beatles in this period pointed out. When interviewed separately, all of them came across as thoughtful individuals, with their own opinions about all sorts of subjects, and their own tastes and senses of humour. But when two or more of them were together -- especially when John and Paul were interviewed together, but even in social situations, they would immediately revert to flip in-jokes and riffing on each other's statements, never revealing anything about themselves as individuals, but just going into Beatle mode -- simultaneously preserving the band's image, closing off outsiders, *and* making sure they didn't do or say anything that would get them mocked by the others. Cleave, as someone who actually took them all seriously, managed to get some very revealing information about all of them. In the article on Ringo, which is the most superficial -- one gets the impression that Cleave found him rather difficult to talk to when compared to the other, more verbally facile, band members -- she talked about how he had a lot of Wild West and military memorabilia, how he was a devoted family man and also devoted to his friends -- he had moved to the suburbs to be close to John and George, who already lived there. The most revealing quote about Ringo's personality was him saying "Of course that's the great thing about being married -- you have a house to sit in and company all the time. And you can still go to clubs, a bonus for being married. I love being a family man." While she looked at the other Beatles' tastes in literature in detail, she'd noted that the only books Ringo owned that weren't just for show were a few science fiction paperbacks, but that as he said "I'm not thick, it's just that I'm not educated. People can use words and I won't know what they mean. I say 'me' instead of 'my'." Ringo also didn't have a drum kit at home, saying he only played when he was on stage or in the studio, and that you couldn't practice on your own, you needed to play with other people. In the article on George, she talked about how he was learning the sitar, and how he was thinking that it might be a good idea to go to India to study the sitar with Ravi Shankar for six months. She also talks about how during the interview, he played the guitar pretty much constantly, playing everything from songs from "Hello Dolly" to pieces by Bach to "the Trumpet Voluntary", by which she presumably means Clarke's "Prince of Denmark's March": [Excerpt: Jeremiah Clarke, "Prince of Denmark's March"] George was also the most outspoken on the subjects of politics, religion, and society, linking the ongoing war in Vietnam with the UK's reverence for the Second World War, saying "I think about it every day and it's wrong. Anything to do with war is wrong. They're all wrapped up in their Nelsons and their Churchills and their Montys -- always talking about war heroes. Look at All Our Yesterdays [a show on ITV that showed twenty-five-year-old newsreels] -- how we killed a few more Huns here and there. Makes me sick. They're the sort who are leaning on their walking sticks and telling us a few years in the army would do us good." He also had very strong words to say about religion, saying "I think religion falls flat on its face. All this 'love thy neighbour' but none of them are doing it. How can anybody get into the position of being Pope and accept all the glory and the money and the Mercedes-Benz and that? I could never be Pope until I'd sold my rich gates and my posh hat. I couldn't sit there with all that money on me and believe I was religious. Why can't we bring all this out in the open? Why is there all this stuff about blasphemy? If Christianity's as good as they say it is, it should stand up to a bit of discussion." Harrison also comes across as a very private person, saying "People keep saying, ‘We made you what you are,' well, I made Mr. Hovis what he is and I don't go round crawling over his gates and smashing up the wall round his house." (Hovis is a British company that makes bread and wholegrain flour). But more than anything else he comes across as an instinctive anti-authoritarian, being angry at bullying teachers, Popes, and Prime Ministers. McCartney's profile has him as the most self-consciously arty -- he talks about the plays of Alfred Jarry and the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio: [Excerpt: Luciano Berio, "Momenti (for magnetic tape)"] Though he was very worried that he might be sounding a little too pretentious, saying “I don't want to sound like Jonathan Miller going on" --
GGACP celebrates the birthday (June 22nd) of Grammy-winning producer, British Invasion rocker and former Apple Records exec Peter Asher with this memorable interview from 2017. In this episode, Peter joins the boys for a fascinating discussion about the genius of James Taylor, the profound influence of the Everly Brothers, the rivalry between the Beach Boys and the Fab Four and the 50th anniversary of “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Also, John Lennon meets Yoko Ono, Linda Ronstadt teams with Nelson Riddle, Peter and Gordon play the '64 World's Fair and Peter becomes the first person to hear "I Want to Hold Your Hand." PLUS: The genius of Spike Milligan! Gilbert sings! Jackie Gleason acts out! Peter “inspires” Austin Powers! Chad & Jeremy meet the Caped Crusaders! And a “rejected” Beatles tune lands Peter at the top of the charts! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Episode one hundred and forty-eight of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Light My Fire" by the Doors, the history of cool jazz, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "My Friend Jack" by the Smoke. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt's irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ Resources As usual, I've put together a Mixcloud mix containing all the music excerpted in this episode and the shorter spoken-word tracks. Information on Dick Bock, World Pacific, and Ravi Shankar came from Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar by Oliver Craske. Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, and Robby Krieger have all released autobiographies. Densmore's is out of print, but I referred to Manzarek's and Krieger's here. Of the two Krieger's is vastly more reliable. I also used Mick Wall's book on the Doors and Stephen Davis' biography of Jim Morrison. Information about Elektra Records came from Follow the Music by Jac Holzman and Gavan Daws, which is available as a free PDF download on Elektra's website. Biographical information on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi comes from this book, written by one of his followers. The Doors' complete studio albums can be bought as MP3s for £14. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript There are two big problems that arise for anyone trying to get an accurate picture of history, and which have certainly arisen for me during the course of this podcast -- things which make sources unreliable enough that you feel you have to caveat everything you say on a subject. One of those is hagiography, and the converse desire to tear heroes down. No matter what one wants to say on, say, the subjects of Jesus or Mohammed or Joseph Smith, the only sources we have for their lives are written either by people who want to present them as unblemished paragons of virtue, or by people who want to destroy that portrayal -- we know that any source is written by someone with a bias, and it might be a bias we agree with, but it's still a bias. The other, related, problem, is deliberate disinformation. This comes up especially for people dealing with military history -- during conflicts, governments obviously don't want their opponents to know when their attacks have caused damage, or to know what their own plans are, and after a war has concluded the belligerent parties want to cover up their own mistakes and war crimes. We're sadly seeing that at the moment in the situation in Ukraine -- depending on one's media diet, one could get radically different ideas of what is actually going on in that terrible conflict. But it happens all the time, in all wars, and on all sides. Take the Vietnam War. While the US was involved on the side of the South Vietnamese government from the start of that conflict, it was in a very minor way, mostly just providing supplies and training. Most historians look at the real start of US involvement in that war as having been in August 1964. President Johnson had been wanting, since assuming the Presidency in November 1963 after the death of John F Kennedy, to get further into the war, but had needed an excuse to do so. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident provided him with that excuse. On August the second, a fleet of US warships entered into what the North Vietnamese considered their territorial waters -- they used a different distance from shore to mark their territorial waters than most other countries used, and one which wasn't generally accepted, but which they considered important. Because of this, some North Vietnamese ships started following the American ones. The American ships, who thought they weren't doing anything wrong, set off what they considered to be warning shots, and the North Vietnamese ships fired back, which to the American ships was considered them attacking. Some fire was exchanged, but not much happened. Two days later, the American ships believed they were getting attacked again, and spent several hours firing at what they believed were North Vietnamese submarines. It was later revealed that this was just the American sonar systems playing up, and that they were almost certainly firing at nothing at all, and some even suspected that at the time -- President Johnson apparently told other people in confidence that in his opinion they'd been firing at stray dolphins. But that second "attack", however flimsy the evidence, was enough that Johnson could tell Congress and the nation that an American fleet had been attacked by the North Vietnamese, and use that as justification to get Congress to authorise him sending huge numbers of troops to Vietnam, and getting America thoroughly embroiled in a war that would cost innumerable lives and billions of dollars for what turned out to be no benefit at all to anyone. The commander of the US fleet involved in the Gulf of Tonkin operation was then-Captain, later Rear Admiral, Steve Morrison: [Excerpt: The Doors, "The End"] We've talked a bit in this podcast previously about the development of jazz in the forties, fifties, and early sixties -- there was a lot of back and forth influence in those days between jazz, blues, R&B, country, and rock and roll, far more than one might imagine looking at the popular histories of these genres, and so we've looked at swing, bebop, and modal jazz before now. But one style of music we haven't touched on is the type that was arguably the most popular and influential style of jazz in the fifties, even though we've mentioned several of the people involved in it. We've never yet had a proper look at Cool Jazz. Cool Jazz, as its name suggests, is a style of music that was more laid back than the more frenetic bebop or hard-edged modal jazz. It was a style that sounded sophisticated, that sounded relaxed, that prized melody and melodic invention over super-fast technical wizardry, and that produced much of what we now think of when we think of "jazz" as a popular style of music. The records of Dave Brubeck, for example, arguably the most popular fifties jazz musician, are very much in the "cool jazz" mode: [Excerpt: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, "Take Five"] And we have mentioned on several occasions the Modern Jazz Quartet, who were cited as influences by everyone from Ray Charles to the Kinks to the Modern Folk Quartet: [Excerpt: The Modern Jazz Quartet, "Regret?"] We have also occasionally mentioned people like Mose Allison, who occasionally worked in the Cool Jazz mode. But we've never really looked at it as a unified thing. Cool Jazz, like several of the other developments in jazz we've looked at, owes its existence to the work of the trumpeter Miles Davis, who was one of the early greats of bop and who later pioneered modal jazz. In 1948, in between his bop and modal periods, Davis put together a short-lived nine-piece group, the Miles Davis Nonette, who performed together for a couple of weeks in late 1948, and who recorded three sessions in 1949 and 1950, but who otherwise didn't perform much. Each of those sessions had a slightly different lineup, but key people involved in the recordings were Davis himself, arranger Gil Evans, piano player John Lewis, who would later go on to become the leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and baritone sax player Gerry Mulligan. Mulligan and Evans, and the group's alto player Lee Konitz, had all been working for the big band Claude Thornhill and his Orchestra, a band which along with the conventional swing instruments also had a French horn player and a tuba player, and which had recorded soft, mellow, relaxing music: [Excerpt: Claude Thornhill and his Orchestra, "To Each His Own"] The Davis Nonette also included French horn and tuba, and was explicitly modelled on Thornhill's style, but in a stripped-down version. They used the style of playing that Thornhill preferred, with no vibrato, and with his emphasis on unison playing, with different instruments doubling each other playing the melody, rather than call-and response riffing: [Excerpt: The Miles Davis Nonette, "Venus De Milo"] Those recordings were released as singles in 1949 and 1950, and were later reissued in 1957 as an album titled "Birth of the Cool", by which point Cool Jazz had become an established style, though Davis himself had long since moved on in other musical directions. After the Birth of the Cool sessions, Gerry Mulligan had recorded an album as a bandleader himself, and then had moved to the West Coast, where he'd started writing arrangements for Stan Kenton, one of the more progressive big band leaders of the period: [Excerpt: Stan Kenton, "Young Blood"] While working for Kenton, Mulligan had started playing dates at a club called the Haig, where the headliner was the vibraphone player Red Norvo. While Norvo had started out as a big-band musician, playing with people like Benny Goodman, he had recently started working in a trio, with just a guitarist, initially Tal Farlowe, and bass player, initially Charles Mingus: [Excerpt: Red Norvo, "This Can't Be Love"] By 1952 Mingus had left Norvo's group, but they were still using the trio format, and that meant there was no piano at the venue, which meant that Mulligan had to form a band that didn't rely on the chordal structures that a piano would provide -- the idea of a group with a rhythm section that *didn't* have a piano was quite an innovation in jazz at this time, and freeing themselves from that standard instrument ended up opening up extra possibilities. His group consisted of himself on saxophone, Chet Baker on trumpet, Bob Whitlock on bass and Chico Hamilton on drums. They made music in much the same loose, casual, style as the recordings Mulligan had made with Davis, but in a much smaller group with the emphasis being on the interplay between Mulligan and Baker. And this group were the first group to record on a new label, Pacific Jazz, founded by Dick Bock. Bock had served in the Navy during World War II, and had come back from the South Pacific with two tastes -- a taste for hashish, and for music that was outside the conventional American pop mould. Bock *loved* the Mulligan Quartet, and in partnership with his friend Roy Harte, a notable jazz drummer, he raised three hundred and fifty dollars to record the first album by Mulligan's new group: [Excerpt: Gerry Mulligan Quartet, "Aren't You Glad You're You?"] Pacific Jazz, the label Bock and Harte founded, soon became *the* dominant label for Cool Jazz, which also became known as the West Coast Sound. The early releases on the label were almost entirely by the Mulligan Quartet, released either under Mulligan's name, as by Chet Baker, or as "Lee Konitz and the Gerry Mulligan Quartet" when Mulligan's old bandmate Konitz joined them. These records became big hits, at least in the world of jazz. But both Mulligan and Baker were heroin addicts, and in 1953 Mulligan got arrested and spent six months in prison. And while he was there, Chet Baker made some recordings in his own right and became a bona fide star. Not only was Baker a great jazz trumpet player, he was also very good looking, and it turned out he could sing too. The Mulligan group had made the song "My Funny Valentine" one of the highlights of its live shows, with Baker taking a trumpet solo: [Excerpt: Gerry Mulligan Quartet, "My Funny Valentine"] But when Baker recorded a vocal version, for his album Chet Baker Sings, it made Baker famous: [Excerpt: Chet Baker, "My Funny Valentine"] When Mulligan got out of prison, he wanted to rehire Baker, but Baker was now topping the popularity polls in all the jazz magazines, and was the biggest breakout jazz star of the early fifties. But Mulligan formed a new group, and this just meant that Pacific Jazz had *two* of the biggest acts in jazz on its books now, rather than just one. But while Bock loved jazz, he was also fascinated by other kinds of music, and while he was in New York at the beginning of 1956 he was invited by his friend George Avakian, a producer who had worked with Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and others, to come and see a performance by an Indian musician he was working with. Avakian was just about to produce Ravi Shankar's first American album, The Sounds of India, for Columbia Records. But Columbia didn't think that there was much of a market for Shankar's music -- they were putting it out as a speciality release rather than something that would appeal to the general public -- and so they were happy for Bock to sign Shankar to his own label. Bock renamed the company World Pacific, to signify that it was now going to be putting out music from all over the world, not just jazz, though he kept the Pacific Jazz label for its jazz releases, and he produced Shankar's next album, India's Master Musician: [Excerpt: Ravi Shankar, "Raga Charu Keshi"] Most of Shankar's recordings for the next decade would be produced by Bock, and Bock would also try to find ways to combine Shankar's music with jazz, though Shankar tried to keep a distinction between the two. But for example on Shankar's next album for World Pacific, Improvisations and Theme from Pather Panchali, he was joined by a group of West Coast jazz musicians including Bud Shank (who we'll hear about again in a future episode) on flute: [Excerpt: Ravi Shankar, "Improvisation on the Theme From Pather Panchali"] But World Pacific weren't just putting out music. They also put out spoken-word records. Some of those were things that would appeal to their jazz audience, like the comedy of Lord Buckley: [Excerpt: Lord Buckley, "Willy the Shake"] But they also put out spoken-word albums that appealed to Bock's interest in spirituality and philosophy, like an album by Gerald Heard. Heard had previously written the liner notes for Chet Baker Sings!, but as well as being a jazz fan Heard was very connected in the world of the arts -- he was a very close friend with Aldous Huxley -- and was also interested in various forms of non-Western spirituality. He practiced yoga, and was also fascinated by Buddhism, Vedanta, and Taoism: [Excerpt: Gerald Heard, "Paraphrased from the Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu"] We've come across Heard before, in passing, in the episode on "Tomorrow Never Knows", when Ralph Mentzner said of his experiments with Timothy Leary and Ram Dass "At the suggestion of Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard we began using the Bardo Thödol ( Tibetan Book of the Dead) as a guide to psychedelic sessions" -- Heard was friends with both Huxley and Humphrey Osmond, and in fact had been invited by them to take part in the mescaline trip that Huxley wrote about in his book The Doors of Perception, the book that popularised psychedelic drug use, though Heard was unable to attend at that time. Heard was a huge influence on the early psychedelic movement -- though he always advised Leary and his associates not to be so public with their advocacy, and just to keep it to a small enlightened circle rather than risk the wrath of the establishment -- and he's cited by almost everyone in Leary's circle as having been the person who, more than anything else, inspired them to investigate both psychedelic drugs and mysticism. He's the person who connected Bill W. of Alcoholics Anonymous with Osmond and got him advocating LSD use. It was Heard's books that made Huston Smith, the great scholar of comparative religions and associate of Leary, interested in mysticism and religions outside his own Christianity, and Heard was one of the people who gave Leary advice during his early experiments. So it's not surprising that Bock also became interested in Leary's ideas before they became mainstream. Indeed, in 1964 he got Shankar to do the music for a short film based on The Psychedelic Experience, which Shankar did as a favour for his friend even though Shankar didn't approve of drug use. The film won an award in 1965, but quickly disappeared from circulation as its ideas were too controversial: [Excerpt: The Psychedelic Experience (film)] And Heard introduced Bock to other ideas around philosophy and non-Western religions. In particular, Bock became an advocate for a little-known Hindu mystic who had visited the US in 1959 teaching a new style of meditation which he called Transcendental Meditation. A lot is unclear about the early life of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, even his birth name -- both "Maharishi" and "Yogi" are honorifics rather than names as such, though he later took on both as part of his official name, and in this and future episodes I'll refer to him as "the Maharishi". What we do know is that he was born in India, and had attained a degree in physics before going off to study with Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, a teacher of the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism. Now, I am not a Hindu, and only have a passing knowledge of Hindu theology and traditions, and from what I can gather getting a proper understanding requires a level of cultural understanding I don't have, and in particular a knowledge of the Sanskrit language, so my deepest apologies for any mangling I do of these beliefs in trying to talk about them as they pertain to mid-sixties psychedelic rock. I hope my ignorance is forgivable, and seen as what it is rather than malice. But the teachings of this school as I understand them seem to centre around an idea of non-separation -- that God is in all things, and is all things, and that there is no separation between different things, and that you merely have to gain a deep realisation of this. The Maharishi later encapsulated this in the phrase "I am that, thou art that, all this is that", which much later the Beach Boys, several of whom were followers of the Maharishi, would turn into a song: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "All This is That"] The other phrase they're singing there, "Jai Guru Dev" is also a phrase from the Maharishi, and refers to his teacher Brahmananda Saraswati -- it means "all hail the divine teacher" or "glory to the heavenly one", and "guru dev" or "guru deva" was the name the Maharishi would use for Saraswati after his death, as the Maharishi believed that Saraswati was an actual incarnation of God. It's that phrase that John Lennon is singing in "Across the Universe" as well, another song later inspired by the Maharishi's teachings: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Across the Universe"] The Maharishi became, by his own account, Saraswati's closest disciple, advisor, and right-hand man, and was privy to his innermost thoughts. However, on Saraswati's death the leadership of the monastery he led became deeply contested, with two different rivals to the position, and the Maharishi was neither -- the rules of the monastery said that only people born into the Brahmin caste could reach the highest positions in the monastery's structure, and the Maharishi was not a Brahmin. So instead of remaining in the monastery, the Maharishi went out into the world to teach a new form of meditation which he claimed he had learned from Guru Dev, a technique which became known as transcendental meditation. The Maharishi would, for the rest of his life, always claim that the system he taught was Guru Dev's teaching for the world, not his own, though the other people who had been at the monastery with him said different things about what Saraswati had taught -- but of course it's perfectly possible for a spiritual leader to have had multiple ideas and given different people different tasks. The crucial thing about the Maharishi's teaching, the way it differed from everything else in the history of Hindu monasticism (as best I understand this) is that all previous teachers of meditation had taught that to get the benefit of the techniques one had to be a renunciate -- you should go off and become a monk and give up all worldly pleasures and devote your life to prayer and meditation. Traditionally, Hinduism has taught that there are four stages of life -- the student, the householder or married person with a family, the retired person, and the Sanyasi, or renunciate, but that you could skip straight from being a student to being a Sanyasi and spend your life as a monk. The Maharishi, though, said: "Obviously enough there are two ways of life: the way of the Sanyasi and the way of life of a householder. One is quite opposed to the other. A Sanyasi renounces everything of the world, whereas a householder needs and accumulates everything. The one realises, through renunciation and detachment, while the other goes through all attachments and accumulation of all that is needed for physical life." What the Maharishi taught was that there are some people who achieve the greatest state of happiness by giving up all the pleasures of the senses, eating the plainest possible food, having no sexual, familial, or romantic connections with anyone else, and having no possessions, while there are other people who achieve the greatest state of happiness by being really rich and having a lot of nice stuff and loads of friends and generally enjoying the pleasures of the flesh -- and that just as there are types of meditation that can help the first group reach enlightenment, there are also types of meditation that will fit into the latter kind of lifestyle, and will help those people reach oneness with God but without having to give up their cars and houses and money. And indeed, he taught that by following his teachings you could get *more* of those worldly pleasures. All you had to do, according to his teaching, was to sit still for fifteen to twenty minutes, twice a day, and concentrate on a single Sanskrit word or phrase, a mantra, which you would be given after going through a short course of teaching. There was nothing else to it, and you would eventually reach the same levels of enlightenment as the ascetics who spent seventy years living in a cave and eating only rice -- and you'd end up richer, too. The appeal of this particular school is, of course, immediately apparent, and Bock became a big advocate of the Maharishi, and put out three albums of his lectures: [Excerpt: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, "Deep Meditation"] Bock even met his second wife at one of the Maharishi's lectures, in 1961. In the early sixties, World Pacific got bought up by Liberty Records, the label for which Jan and Dean and others recorded, but Bock remained in charge of the label, and expanded it, adding another subsidiary, Aura Records, to put out rock and roll singles. Aura was much less successful than the other World Pacific labels. The first record the label put out was a girl-group record, "Shooby Dooby", by the Lewis Sisters, two jazz-singing white schoolteachers from Michigan who would later go on to have a brief career at Motown: [Excerpt: The Lewis Sisters, "Shooby Dooby"] The most successful act that Aura ever had was Sonny Knight, an R&B singer who had had a top twenty hit in 1956 with "Confidential", a song he'd recorded on Specialty Records with Bumps Blackwell, and which had been written by Dorinda Morgan: [Excerpt: Sonny Knight, "Confidential"] But Knight's biggest hit on Aura, "If You Want This Love", only made number seventy-one on the pop charts: [Excerpt: Sonny Knight, "If You Want This Love"] Knight would later go on to write a novel, The Day the Music Died, which Greil Marcus described as "the bitterest book ever written about how rock'n'roll came to be and what it turned into". Marcus said it was about "how a rich version of American black culture is transformed into a horrible, enormously profitable white parody of itself: as white labels sign black artists only to ensure their oblivion and keep those blacks they can't control penned up in the ghetto of the black charts; as white America, faced with something good, responds with a poison that will ultimately ruin even honest men". Given that Knight was the artist who did the *best* out of Aura Records, that says a great deal about the label. But one of the bands that Aura signed, who did absolutely nothing on the charts, was a group called Rick and the Ravens, led by a singer called Screamin' Ray Daniels. They were an LA club band who played a mixture of the surf music which the audiences wanted and covers of blues songs which Daniels preferred to sing. They put out two singles on Aura, "Henrietta": [Excerpt: Rick and the Ravens, "Henrietta"] and "Soul Train": [Excerpt: Rick and the Ravens, "Soul Train"] Ray Daniels was a stage name -- his birth name was Ray Manzarek, and he would later return to that name -- and the core of the band was Ray on vocals and his brothers Rick on guitar and Jim on harmonica. Manzarek thought of himself as a pretty decent singer, but they were just a bar band, and music wasn't really his ideal career. Manzarek had been sent to college by his solidly lower-middle-class Chicago family in the hope that he would become a lawyer, but after getting a degree in economics and a brief stint in the army, which he'd signed up for to avoid getting drafted in the same way people like Dean Torrence did, he'd gone off to UCLA to study film, with the intention of becoming a filmmaker. His family had followed him to California, and he'd joined his brothers' band as a way of making a little extra money on the side, rather than as a way to become a serious musician. Manzarek liked the blues songs they performed, and wasn't particularly keen on the surf music, but thought it was OK. What he really liked, though, was jazz -- he was a particular fan of McCoy Tyner, the pianist on all the great John Coltrane records: [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things"] Manzarek was a piano player himself, though he didn't play much with the Ravens, and he wanted more than anything to be able to play like Tyner, and so when Rick and the Ravens got signed to Aura Records, he of course became friendly with Dick Bock, who had produced so many great jazz records and worked with so many of the greats of the genre. But Manzarek was also having some problems in his life. He'd started taking LSD, which was still legal, and been fascinated by its effects, but worried that he couldn't control them -- he couldn't tell whether he was going to have a good trip or a bad one. He was wondering if there was a way he could have the same kind of revelatory mystical experience but in a more controlled manner. When he mentioned this to Bock, Bock told him that the best method he knew for doing that was transcendental meditation. Bock gave him a copy of one of the Maharishi's albums, and told him to go to a lecture on transcendental meditation, run by the head of the Maharishi's west-coast organisation, as by this point the Maharishi's organisation, known as Spiritual Regeneration, had an international infrastructure, though it was still nowhere near as big as it would soon become. At the lecture, Manzarek got talking to one of the other audience members, a younger man named John Densmore. Densmore had come to the lecture with his friend Robby Krieger, and both had come for the same reason that Manzarek had -- they'd been having bad trips and so had become a little disillusioned with acid. Krieger had been the one who'd heard about transcendental meditation, while he was studying the sitar and sarod at UCLA -- though Krieger would later always say that his real major had been in "not joining the Army". UCLA had one of the few courses in Indian music available in the US at the time, as thanks in part to Bock California had become the centre of American interest in music from India -- so much so that in 1967 Ravi Shankar would open up a branch of his own Kinnara Music School there. (And you can get an idea of how difficult it is to separate fact from fiction when researching this episode that one of the biographies I've used for the Doors says that Krieger heard about the Maharishi while studying at the Kinnara school. As the only branch of the Kinnara school that was open at this point was in Mumbai, it's safe to say that unless Krieger had a *really* long commute he wasn't studying there at this point.) Densmore and Manzarek got talking, and they found that they shared a lot of the same tastes in jazz -- just as Manzarek was a fan of McCoy Tyner, so Densmore was a fan of Elvin Jones, the drummer on those Coltrane records, and they both loved the interplay of the two musicians: [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things"] Manzarek was starting to play a bit more keyboards with the Ravens, and he was also getting annoyed with the Ravens' drummer, who had started missing rehearsals -- he'd turn up only for the shows themselves. He thought it might be an idea to get Densmore to join the group, and Densmore agreed to come along for a rehearsal. That initial rehearsal Densmore attended had Manzarek and his brothers, and may have had a bass player named Patricia Hansen, who was playing with the group from time to time around this point, though she was mostly playing with a different bar band, Patty and the Esquires. But as well as the normal group members, there was someone else there, a friend of Manzarek's from film school named Jim Morrison. Morrison was someone who, by Manzarek's later accounts, had been very close to Manzarek at university, and who Manzarek had regarded as a genius, with a vast knowledge of beat poetry and European art film, but who had been regarded by most of the other students and the lecturers as being a disruptive influence. Morrison had been a fat, asthmatic, introverted kid -- he'd had health problems as a child, including a bout of rheumatic fever which might have weakened his heart, and he'd also been prone to playing the kind of "practical jokes" which can often be a cover for deeper problems. For example, as a child he was apparently fond of playing dead -- lying in the corridors at school and being completely unresponsive for long periods no matter what anyone did to move him, then suddenly getting up and laughing at anyone who had been concerned and telling them it was a joke. Given how frequently Morrison would actually pass out in later life, often after having taken some substance or other, at least one biographer has suggested that he might have had undiagnosed epilepsy (or epilepsy that was diagnosed but which he chose to keep a secret) and have been having absence seizures and covering for them with the jokes. Robby Krieger also says in his own autobiography that he used to have the same doctor as Morrison, and the doctor once made an offhand comment about Morrison having severe health problems, "as if it was common knowledge". His health difficulties, his weight, his introversion, and the experience of moving home constantly as a kid because of his father's career in the Navy, had combined to give him a different attitude to most of his fellow students, and in particular a feeling of rootlessness -- he never owned or even rented his own home in later years, just moving in with friends or girlfriends -- and a lack of sense of his own identity, which would often lead to him making up lies about his life and acting as if he believed them. In particular, he would usually claim to friends that his parents were dead, or that he had no contact with them, even though his family have always said he was in at least semi-regular contact. At university, Morrison had been a big fan of Rick and the Ravens, and had gone to see them perform regularly, but would always disrupt the shows -- he was, by all accounts, a lovely person when sober but an aggressive boor when drunk -- by shouting out for them to play "Louie Louie", a song they didn't include in their sets. Eventually one of Ray's brothers had called his bluff and said they'd play the song, but only if Morrison got up on stage and sang it. He had -- the first time he'd ever performed live -- and had surprised everyone by being quite a good singer. After graduation, Morrison and Manzarek had gone their separate ways, with Morrison saying he was moving to New York. But a few weeks later they'd encountered each other on the beach -- Morrison had decided to stay in LA, and had been staying with a friend, mostly sleeping on the friend's rooftop. He'd been taking so much LSD he'd forgotten to eat for weeks at a time, and had lost a great deal of weight, and Manzarek properly realised for the first time that his friend was actually good-looking. Morrison also told Manzarek that he'd been writing songs -- this was summer 1965, and the Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man", Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", and the Stones' "Satisfaction" had all shown him that there was potential for pop songs to have more interesting lyrical content than "Louie Louie". Manzarek asked him to sing some of the songs he'd been writing, and as Manzarek later put it "he began to sing, not in the booze voice he used at the Turkey Joint, but in a Chet Baker voice". The first song Morrison sang for Ray Manzarek was one of the songs that Rick and the Ravens would rehearse that first time with John Densmore, "Moonlight Drive": [Excerpt: Rick and the Ravens, "Moonlight Drive"] Manzarek invited Morrison to move in with him and his girlfriend. Manzarek seems to have thought of himself as a mentor, a father figure, for Morrison, though whether that's how Morrison thought of him is impossible to say. Manzarek, who had a habit of choosing the myth over the truth, would later claim that he had immediately decided that he and Morrison were going to be a duo and find a whole new set of musicians, but all the evidence points to him just inviting Morrison to join the Ravens as the singer Certainly the first recordings this group made, a series of demos, were under Rick and the Ravens' name, and paid for by Aura Records. They're all of songs written by Morrison, and seem to be sung by Morrison and Manzarek in close harmony throughout. But the demos did not impress the head of Liberty Records, which now owned Aura, and who saw no commercial potential in them, even in one that later became a number one hit when rerecorded a couple of years later: [Excerpt: Rick and the Ravens, "Hello I Love You"] Although to be fair, that song is clearly the work of a beginning songwriter, as Morrison has just taken the riff to "All Day and All of the Night" by the Kinks, and stuck new words to it: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "All Day and All of the Night"] But it seems to have been the lack of success of these demos that convinced Manzarek's brothers and Patricia Hansen to quit the band. According to Manzarek, his brothers were not interested in what they saw as Morrison's pretensions towards poetry, and didn't think this person who seemed shy and introverted in rehearsals but who they otherwise knew as a loud annoying drunk in the audience would make a good frontman. So Rick and the Ravens were down to just Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore, but they continued shopping their demos around, and after being turned down by almost everyone they were signed by Columbia Records, specifically by Billy James, who they liked because he'd written the liner notes to a Byrds album, comparing them to Coltrane, and Manzarek liked the idea of working with an A&R man who knew Coltrane's work, though he wasn't impressed by the Byrds themselves, later writing "The Byrds were country, they didn't have any black in them at all. They couldn't play jazz. Hell, they probably didn't even know anything about jazz. They were folk-rock, for cri-sake. Country music. For whites only." (Ray Manzarek was white). They didn't get an advance from Columbia, but they did get free equipment -- Columbia had just bought Vox, who made amplifiers and musical instruments, and Manzarek in particular was very pleased to have a Vox organ, the same kind that the Animals and the Dave Clark Five used. But they needed a guitarist and a bass player. Manzarek claimed in his autobiography that he was thinking along the lines of a four-piece group even before he met Densmore, and that his thoughts had been "Someone has to be Thumper and someone has to be Les Paul/Chuck Berry by way of Charlie Christian. The guitar player will be a rocker who knows jazz. And the drummer will be a jazzer who can rock. These were my prerequisites. This is what I had to have to make the music I heard in my head." But whatever Manzarek was thinking, there were only two people who auditioned for the role of the guitar player in this new version of the band, both of them friends of Densmore, and in fact two people who had been best friends since high school -- Bill Wolff and Robby Krieger. Wolff and Krieger had both gone to private boarding school -- they had both originally gone to normal state schools, but their parents had independently decided they were bad influences on each other and sent them away to boarding school to get away from each other, but accidentally sent them to the same school -- and had also learned guitar together. They had both loved a record of flamenco guitar called Dos Flamencos by Jaime Grifo and Nino Marvino: [Excerpt: Jaime Grifo and Nino Marvino, "Caracolés"] And they'd decided they were going to become the new Dos Flamencos. They'd also regularly sneaked out of school to go and see a jug band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, a band which featured Bob Weir, who was also at their school, along with Jerry Garcia and Pigpen McKernan. Krieger was also a big fan of folk and blues music, especially bluesy folk-revivalists like Spider John Koerner, and was a massive fan of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Krieger and Densmore had known each other before Krieger had been transferred to boarding school, and had met back up at university, where they would hang out together and go to see Charles Mingus, Wes Montgomery, and other jazz musicians. At this time Krieger had still been a folk and blues purist, but then he went to see Chuck Berry live, mostly because Skip James and Big Mama Thornton were also on the bill, and he had a Damascene conversion -- the next day he went to a music shop and traded in his acoustic for a red Gibson, as close to the one Chuck Berry played as he could find. Wolff, Densmore, Krieger, and piano player Grant Johnson had formed a band called the Psychedelic Rangers, and when the Ravens were looking for a new guitarist, it was natural that they tried the two guitarists from Densmore's other band. Krieger had the advantage over Wolff for two reasons -- one of which was actually partly Wolff's doing. To quote Krieger's autobiography: "A critic once said I had 'the worst hair in rock 'n' roll'. It stung pretty bad, but I can't say they were wrong. I always battled with my naturally frizzy, kinky, Jewfro, so one day my friend Bill Wolff and I experimented with Ultra Sheen, a hair relaxer marketed mainly to Black consumers. The results were remarkable. Wolff, as we all called him, said 'You're starting to look like that jerk Bryan MacLean'". According to Krieger, his new hairdo made him better looking than Wolff, at least until the straightener wore off, and this was one of the two things that made the group choose him over Wolff, who was a better technical player. The other was that Krieger played with a bottleneck, which astonished the other members. If you're unfamiliar with bottleneck playing, it's a common technique in the blues. You tune your guitar to an open chord, and then use a resonant tube -- these days usually a specially-made metal slide that goes on your finger, but for older blues musicians often an actual neck of a bottle, broken off and filed down -- to slide across the strings. Slide guitar is one of the most important styles in blues, especially electric blues, and you can hear it in the playing of greats like Elmore James: [Excerpt: Elmore James, "Dust My Broom"] But while the members of the group all claimed to be blues fans -- Manzarek talks in his autobiography about going to see Muddy Waters in a club in the South Side of Chicago where he and his friends were the only white faces in the audience -- none of them had any idea what bottleneck playing was, and Manzarek was worried when Krieger pulled it out that he was going to use it as a weapon, that being the only association he had with bottle necks. But once Krieger played with it, they were all convinced he had to be their guitarist, and Morrison said he wanted that sound on everything. Krieger joining seems to have changed the dynamic of the band enormously. Both Morrison and Densmore would independently refer to Krieger as their best friend in the band -- Manzarek said that having a best friend was a childish idea and he didn't have one. But where before this had been Manzarek's band with Morrison as the singer, it quickly became a band centred around the creative collaboration between Krieger and Morrison. Krieger seems to have been too likeable for Manzarek to dislike him, and indeed seems to have been the peacemaker in the band on many occasions, but Manzarek soon grew to resent Densmore, seemingly as the closeness he had felt to Morrison started to diminish, especially after Morrison moved out of Manzarek's house, apparently because Manzarek was starting to remind him of his father. The group soon changed their name from the Ravens to one inspired by Morrison's reading. Aldous Huxley's book on psychedelic drugs had been titled The Doors of Perception, and that title had in turn come from a quote from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by the great mystic poet and artist William Blake, who had written "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern" (Incidentally, in one of those weird coincidences that I like to note when they come up, Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell had also inspired the book The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, about the divorce of heaven and hell, and both Lewis and Huxley died on the same date, the twenty-second of November 1963, the same day John F. Kennedy died). Morrison decided that he wanted to rename the group The Doors, although none of the other group members were particularly keen on the idea -- Krieger said that he thought they should name the group Perception instead. Initially the group rehearsed only songs written by Morrison, along with a few cover versions. They worked up a version of Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man", originally recorded by Howlin' Wolf: [Excerpt: Howlin' Wolf, "Back Door Man"] And a version of "Alabama Song", a song written by Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill, from the opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, with English language lyrics by Elisabeth Hauptmann. That song had originally been recorded by Lotte Lenya, and it was her version that the group based their version on, at the suggestion of Manzarek's girlfriend: [Excerpt: Lotte Lenya, "Alabama Song"] Though it's likely given their tastes in jazz that they were also aware of a recent recording of the song by Eric Dolphy and John Lewis: [Excerpt: Eric Dolphy and John Lewis, "Alabama Song"] But Morrison started to get a little dissatisfied with the fact that he was writing all the group's original material at this point, and he started to put pressure on the others to bring in songs. One of the first things they had agreed was that all band members would get equal credit and shares of the songwriting, so that nobody would have an incentive to push their own mediocre song at the expense of someone else's great one, but Morrison did want the others to start pulling their weight. As it would turn out, for the most part Manzarek and Densmore wouldn't bring in many song ideas, but Krieger would, and the first one he brought in would be the song that would make them into stars. The song Krieger brought in was one he called "Light My Fire", and at this point it only had one verse and a chorus. According to Manzarek, Densmore made fun of the song when it was initially brought in, saying "we're not a folk-rock band" and suggesting that Krieger might try selling it to the Mamas and the Papas, but the other band members liked it -- but it's important to remember here that Manzarek and Densmore had huge grudges against each other for most of their lives, and that Manzarek is not generally known as an entirely reliable narrator. Now, I'm going to talk a lot about the influences that have been acknowledged for this song, but before I do there's one that I haven't seen mentioned much but which seems to me to be very likely to have at least been a subconscious influence -- "She's Not There" by the Zombies: [Excerpt: The Zombies, "She's Not There"] Now, there are several similarities to note about the Zombies record. First, like the Doors, the Zombies were a keyboard-driven band. Second, there's the dynamics of the songs -- both have soft, slightly jazzy verses and then a more straight-ahead rock chorus. And finally there's the verse chord sequence. The verse for "She's Not There" goes from Am to D repeatedly: [demonstrates] While the verse for "Light My Fire" goes from Am to F sharp minor -- and for those who don't know, the notes in a D chord are D, F sharp, and A, while the notes in an F sharp minor chord are F sharp, A, and C sharp -- they're very similar chords. So "She's Not There" is: [demonstrates] While "Light My Fire" is: [demonstrates] At least, that's what Manzarek plays. According to Krieger, he played an Asus2 chord rather than an A minor chord, but Manzarek heard it as an A minor and played that instead. Now again, I've not seen anyone acknowledge "She's Not There" as an influence, but given the other influences that they do acknowledge, and the music that was generally in the air at the time, it would not surprise me even the smallest amount if it was. But either way, what Krieger brought in was a simple verse and chorus: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire"] Incidentally, I've been talking about the song as having A minor chords, but you'll actually hear the song in two different keys during this episode, even though it's the same performance throughout, and sometimes it might not sound right to people familiar with a particular version of the record. The band played the song with the verse starting with A minor, and that's how the mono single mix was released, and I'll be using excerpts of that in general. But when the stereo version of the album was released, which had a longer instrumental break, the track was mastered about a semitone too slow, and that's what I'll be excerpting when talking about the solos -- and apparently that speed discrepancy has been fixed in more recent remasterings of the album than the one I'm using. So if you know the song and bits of what I play sound odd to you, that's why. Krieger didn't have a second verse, and so writing the second verse's lyrics was the next challenge. There was apparently some disagreement within the band about the lyrics that Morrison came up with, with their references to funeral pyres, but Morrison won the day, insisting that the song needed some darkness to go with the light of the first verse. Both verses would get repeated at the end of the song, in reverse order, rather than anyone writing a third or fourth verse. Morrison also changed the last line of the chorus -- in Krieger's original version, he'd sung "Come on baby, light my fire" three times, but Morrison changed the last line to "try to set the night on fire", which Krieger thought was a definite improvement. They then came up with an extended instrumental section for the band members to solo in. This was inspired by John Coltrane, though I have seen different people make different claims as to which particular Coltrane record it was inspired by. Many sources, including Krieger, say it was based on Coltrane's famous version of "My Favorite Things": [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things"] But Manzarek in his autobiography says it was inspired by Ole, the track that Coltrane recorded with Eric Dolphy: [Excerpt: John Coltrane, "Ole"] Both are of course similar musical ideas, and either could have inspired the “Light My Fire” instrumental section, though none of the Doors are anything like as good or inventive on their instruments as Coltrane's group (and of course "Light My Fire" is in four-four rather than three-four): [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire"] So they had a basic verse-chorus song with a long instrumental jam session in the middle. Now comes the bit that there's some dispute over. Both Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger agree that Manzarek came up with the melody used in the intro, but differ wildly over who came up with the chord sequence for it and when, and how it was put into the song. According to Manzarek, he came up with the whole thing as an intro for the song at that first rehearsal of it, and instructed the other band members what to do. According to Krieger, though, the story is rather different, and the evidence seems to be weighted in Krieger's favour. In early live performances of the song, they started the song with the Am-F sharp minor shifts that were used in the verse itself, and continued doing this even after the song was recorded: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire (live at the Matrix)"] But they needed a way to get back out of the solo section and into the third verse. To do this, Krieger came up with a sequence that starts with a change from G to D, then from D to F, before going into a circle of fifths -- not the ascending circle of fifths in songs like "Hey Joe", but a descending one, the same sequence as in "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" or "I Will Survive", ending on an A flat: [demonstrates] To get from the A flat to the A minor or Asus2 chord on which the verse starts, he simply then shifted up a semitone from A flat to A major for two bars: [demonstrates] Over the top of that chord sequence that Krieger had come up with, Manzarek put a melody line which was inspired by one of Bach's two-part inventions. The one that's commonly cited is Invention No. 8 in F Major, BWV 779: [Excerpt: Glenn Gould, "Invention No. 8 in F Major, BWV 779"] Though I don't believe Manzarek has ever stated directly which piece he was inspired by other than that it was one of the two-part inventions, and to be honest none of them sound very much like what he plays to my ears, and I think more than anything he was just going for a generalised baroque style rather than anything more specific. And there are certainly stylistic things in there that are suggestive of the baroque -- the stepwise movement, the sort of skipping triplets, and so on: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire"] But that was just to get out of the solo section and back into the verses. It was only when they finally took the song into the studio that Paul Rothchild, the producer who we will talk about more later, came up with the idea of giving the song more structure by both starting and ending with that sequence, and formalised it so that rather than just general noodling it was an integral part of the song. They now had at least one song that they thought had the potential to be a big hit. The problem was that they had not as yet played any gigs, and nor did they have a record deal, or a bass player. The lack of a record deal may sound surprising, but they were dropped by Columbia before ever recording for them. There are several different stories as to why. One biography I've read says that after they were signed, none of the label's staff producers wanted to work with them and so they were dropped -- though that goes against some of the other things I've read, which say that Terry Melcher was interested in producing them. Other sources say that Morrison went in for a meeting with some of the company executives while on acid, came out very pleased with himself at how well he'd talked to them because he'd been able to control their minds with his telepathic powers, and they were dropped shortly afterwards. And others say that they were dropped as part of a larger set of cutbacks the company was making, and that while Billy James fought to keep them at Columbia, he lost the fight. Either way, they were stuck without a deal, and without any proper gigs, though they started picking up the odd private party here and there -- Krieger's father was a wealthy aerospace engineer who did some work for Howard Hughes among others, and he got his son's group booked to play a set of jazz standards at a corporate event for Hughes, and they got a few more gigs of that nature, though the Hughes gig didn't exactly go well -- Manzarek was on acid, Krieger and Morrison were on speed, and the bass player they brought in for the gig managed to break two strings, something that would require an almost superhuman effort. That bass player didn't last long, and nor did the next -- they tried several, but found that the addition of a bass player made them sound less interesting, more like the Animals or the Rolling Stones than a group with their own character. But they needed something to hold down the low part, and it couldn't be Manzarek on the organ, as the Vox organ had a muddy sound when he tried to play too many notes at once. But that problem solved itself when they played one of their earliest gigs. There, Manzarek found that another band, who were regulars at the club, had left their Fender keyboard bass there, clipped to the top of the piano. Manzarek tried playing that, and found he could play basslines on that with his left hand and the main parts with his right hand. Krieger got his father to buy one for the group -- though Manzarek was upset that they bought the wrong colour -- and they were now able to perform without a bass player. Not only that, but it gave the group a distinctive sound quite unlike all the other bands. Manzarek couldn't play busy bass lines while also playing lead lines with his right hand, and so he ended up going for simple lines without a great deal of movement, which added to the hypnotic feel of the group's music – though on records they would often be supplemented by a session bass player to give them a fuller sound. While the group were still trying to get a record deal, they were also looking for regular gigs, and eventually they found one. The Sunset Strip was *the* place to be, and they wanted desperately to play one of the popular venues there like the Whisky A-Go-Go, but those venues only employed bands who already had record deals. They did, though, manage to get a residency at a tiny, unpopular, club on the strip called The London Fog, and they played there, often to only a handful of people, while slowly building in confidence as performers. At first, Morrison was so shy that Manzarek had to sing harmony with him throughout the sets, acting as joint frontman. Krieger later said "It's rarely talked about, but Ray was a natural born showman, and his knack for stirring drama would serve the Doors' legacy well in later years" But Morrison soon gained enough confidence to sing by himself. But they weren't bringing in any customers, and the London Fog told them that they were soon going to be dropped -- and the club itself shut not long after. But luckily for the group, just before the end of their booking, the booker for the Whisky A-Go-Go, Ronnie Haran walked in with a genuine pop star, Peter Asher, who as half of Peter & Gordon had had a hit with "A World Without Love", written by his sister's boyfriend, Paul McCartney: [Excerpt: Peter and Gordon, "A World Without Love"] Haran was impressed with the group, and they were impressed that she had brought in a real celebrity. She offered them a residency at the club, not as the headlining act -- that would always be a group that had records out -- but as the consistent support act for whichever big act they had booked. The group agreed -- after Morrison first tried to play it cool and told Haran they would have to consider it, to the consternation of his bandmates. They were thrilled, though, to discover that one of the first acts they supported at the Whisky would be Them, Van Morrison's group -- one of the cover versions they had been playing had been Them's "Gloria": [Excerpt: Them, "Gloria"] They supported Them for two weeks at the Whisky, and Jim Morrison watched Van Morrison intently. The two men had very similar personalities according to the other members of the Doors, and Morrison picked up a lot of his performing style from watching Van on stage every night. The last night Them played the venue, Morrison joined them on stage for an extended version of “Gloria” which everyone involved remembered as the highlight of their time there. Every major band on the LA scene played residencies at the Whisky, and over the summer of 1966 the Doors were the support act for the Mothers of Invention, the Byrds, the Turtles, the Buffalo Springfield, and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. This was a time when the Sunset Strip was the centre of Californian musical life, before that centre moved to San Francisco, and the Doors were right at the heart of it. Though it wasn't all great -- this was also the period when there were a series of riots around Sunset Strip, as immortalised in the American International Pictures film Riot on Sunset Strip, and its theme song, by the Standells: [Excerpt: The Standells, "Riot on Sunset Strip"] We'll look at those riots in more detail in a future episode, so I'll leave discussing them for now, but I just wanted to make sure they got mentioned. That Standells song, incidentally, was co-written by John Fleck, who under his old name of John Fleckenstein we saw last episode as the original bass player for Love. And it was Love who ensured that the Doors finally got the record deal they needed. The deal came at a perfect time for the Doors -- just like when they'd been picked up by the Whisky A Go-Go just as they were about to lose their job at the London Fog, so they got signed to a record deal just as they were about to lose their job at the Whisky. They lost that job because of a new song that Krieger and Morrison had written. "The End" had started out as Krieger's attempt at writing a raga in the style of Ravi Shankar, and he had brought it in to one of his increasingly frequent writing sessions with Morrison, where the two of them would work out songs without the rest of the band, and Morrison had added lyrics to it. Lyrics that were partly inspired by his own fraught relationship with his parents, and partly by Oedipus Rex: [Excerpt: The Doors, "The End"] And in the live performance, Morrison had finished that phrase with the appropriate four-letter Oedipal payoff, much to the dismay of the owners of the Whisky A Go Go, who had told the group they would no longer be performing there. But three days before that, the group had signed a deal with Elektra Records. Elektra had for a long time been a folk specialist label, but they had recently branched out into other music, first with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, a favourite of Robby Krieger's, and then with their first real rock signing, Love. And Love were playing a residency at the Whisky A Go Go, and Arthur Lee had encouraged Jac Holzman, the label's owner, to come and check out their support band, who he thought were definitely worth signing. The first time Holzman saw them he was unimpressed -- they sounded to him just like a bunch of other white blues bands -- but he trusted Arthur Lee's judgement and came back a couple more times. The third time, they performed their version of "Alabama Song", and everything clicked into place for Holzman. He immediately signed the group to a three-album deal with an option to extend it to seven. The group were thrilled -- Elektra wasn't a major label like Columbia, but they were a label that nurtured artists and wouldn't just toss them aside. They were even happier when soon after they signed to Elektra, the label signed up a new head of West Coast A&R -- Billy James, the man who had signed them to Columbia, and who they knew would be in their corner. Jac Holzman also had the perfect producer for the group, though he needed a little persuading. Paul Rothchild had made his name as the producer for the first couple of albums by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band: [Excerpt: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, "Mary Mary"] They were Robby Krieger's favourite group, so it made sense to have Rothchild on that level. And while Rothchild had mostly worked in New York, he was in LA that summer, working on the debut album by another Elektra signing, Tim Buckley. The musicians on Buckley's album were almost all part of the same LA scene that the Doors were part of -- other than Buckley's normal guitarist Lee Underwood there was keyboard player Van Dyke Parks, bass player Jim Fielder, who had had a brief stint in the Mothers of Invention and was about to join Buffalo Springfield, and drummer Billy Mundi, who was about to join the Mothers of Invention. And Buckley himself sang in a crooning voice extremely similar to that of Morrison, though Buckley had a much larger range: [Excerpt: Tim Buckley, "Aren't You the Girl?"] There was one problem, though -- Rothchild didn't want to do it. He wasn't at all impressed with the band at first, and he wanted to sign a different band, managed by Albert Grossman, instead. But Holzman persuaded him because Rothchild owed him a favour -- Rothchild had just spent several months in prison after a drug bust, and while he was inside Holzman had given his wife a job so she would have an income, and Holzman also did all the paperwork with Rothchild's parole officer to allow him to leave the state. So with great reluctance Rothchild took the job, though he soon came to appreciate the group's music. He didn't appreciate their second session though. The first day, they'd tried recording a version of "The End", but it hadn't worked, so on the second night they tried recording it again, but this time Morrison was on acid and behaving rather oddly. The final version of "The End" had to be cut together from two takes, and the reason is that at the point we heard earlier: [Excerpt: The Doors, "The End"] Morrison was whirling around, thrashing about, and knocked over a TV that the engineer, Bruce Botnick, had brought into the studio so he could watch the baseball game -- which Manzarek later exaggerated to Morrison throwing the TV through the plate glass window between the studio and the control room. According to everyone else, Morrison just knocked it over and they picked it up after the take finished and it still worked fine. But Morrison had taken a *lot* of acid, and on the way home after the session he became convinced that he had a psychic knowledge that the studio was on fire. He got his girlfriend to turn the car back around, drove back to the studio, climbed over the fence, saw the glowing red lightbulbs in the studio, became convinced that they were fires, and sprayed the entire place with the fire extinguisher, before leaving convinced he had saved the band's equipment -- and leaving telltale evidence as his boot got stuck in the fence on the way out and he just left it there. But despite that little hiccup, the sessions generally went well, and the group and label were pleased with the results. The first single released from the album, "Break on Through", didn't make the Hot One Hundred: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Break on Through"] But when the album came out in January 1967, Elektra put all its resources behind the album, and it started to get a bit of airplay as a result. In particular, one DJ on the new FM radio started playing "Light My Fire" -- at this time, FM had only just started, and while AM radio stuck to three-minute singles for the most part, FM stations would play a wider variety of music. Some of the AM DJs started telling Elektra that they would play the record, too, if it was the length of a normal single, and so Rothchild and Botnick went into the studio and edited the track down to half its previous seven-and-a-half-minute length. When the group were called in to hear the edit, they were initially quite excited to hear what kind of clever editing microsurgery had been done to bring the song down to the required length, but they were horrified when Rothchild actually played it for them. As far as the group were concerned, the heart of the song was the extended instrumental improvisation that took up the middle section: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire"] On the album version, that lasted over three minutes. Rothchild and Botnick cut that section down to just this: [Excerpt: The Doors, "Light My Fire (single edit)"] The group were mortified -- what had been done to their song? That wasn't the sound of people trying to be McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, it was just... a pop song. Rothchild explained that that was the point -- to get the song played on AM radio and get the group a hit. He pointed out how the Beatles records never had an instrumental section that lasted more than eight bars, and the group eventually talked them
This week's episode looks at “Tomorrow Never Knows”, the making of Revolver by the Beatles, and the influence of Timothy Leary on the burgeoning psychedelic movement. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a fifteen-minute bonus episode available, on "Keep on Running" by the Spencer Davis Group. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt's irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ Errata A few things -- I say "Fairfield" at one point when I mean "Fairchild". While Timothy Leary was imprisoned in 1970 he wasn't actually placed in the cell next to Charles Manson until 1973. Sources differ on when Geoff Emerick started at EMI, and he *may* not have worked on "Sun Arise", though I've seen enough reliable sources saying he did that I think it's likely. And I've been told that Maureen Cleave denied having an affair with Lennon -- though note that I said it was "strongly rumoured" rather than something definite. Resources As usual, a mix of all the songs excerpted in this episode is available at Mixcloud.com. I have read literally dozens of books on the Beatles, and used bits of information from many of them. All my Beatles episodes refer to: The Complete Beatles Chronicle by Mark Lewisohn, All The Songs: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Release by Jean-Michel Guesdon, And The Band Begins To Play: The Definitive Guide To The Songs of The Beatles by Steve Lambley, The Beatles By Ear by Kevin Moore, Revolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald, and The Beatles Anthology. For this episode, I also referred to Last Interview by David Sheff, a longform interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono from shortly before Lennon's death; Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, an authorised biography of Paul McCartney; and Here, There, and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles by Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey. For information on Timothy Leary I used a variety of sources including The Most Dangerous Man in America by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis; Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In by Robert Forte; The Starseed Signals by Robert Anton Wilson; and especially The Harvard Psychedelic Club by Don Lattin. I also referred to both The Tibetan Book of the Dead and to The Psychedelic Experience. Leary's much-abridged audiobook version of The Psychedelic Experience can be purchased from Folkways Records. Sadly the first mono mix of "Tomorrow Never Knows" has been out of print since it was first issued. The only way to get the second mono mix is on this ludicrously-expensive out-of-print box set, but the stereo mix is easily available on Revolver. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before I start this episode, I'd like to note that it deals with a number of subjects some listeners might find upsetting, most notably psychedelic drug use, mental illness, and suicide. I think I've dealt with those subjects fairly respectfully, but you still may want to check the transcript if you have worries about these subjects. Also, we're now entering a period of music history with the start of the psychedelic era where many of the songs we're looking at are influenced by non-mainstream religious traditions, mysticism, and also increasingly by political ideas which may seem strange with nearly sixty years' hindsight. I'd just like to emphasise that when I talk about these ideas, I'm trying as best I can to present the thinking of the people I'm talking about, in an accurate and unbiased way, rather than talking about my own beliefs. We're going to head into some strange places in some of these episodes, and my intention is neither to mock the people I'm talking about nor to endorse their ideas, but to present those ideas to you the listener so you can understand the music, the history, and the mindset of the people involved, Is that clear? Then lets' turn on, tune in, and drop out back to 1955... [Opening excerpt from The Psychedelic Experience] There is a phenomenon in many mystical traditions, which goes by many names, including the dark night of the soul and the abyss. It's an experience that happens to mystics of many types, in which they go through unimaginable pain near the beginning of their journey towards greater spiritual knowledge. That pain usually involves a mixture of internal and external events -- some terrible tragedy happens to them, giving them a new awareness of the world's pain, at the same time they're going through an intellectual crisis about their understanding of the world, and it can last several years. It's very similar to the more common experience of the mid-life crisis, except that rather than buying a sports car and leaving their spouse, mystics going through this are more likely to found a new religion. At least, those who survive the crushing despair intact. Those who come out of the experience the other end often find themselves on a totally new path, almost like they're a different person. In 1955, when Dr. Timothy Leary's dark night of the soul started, he was a respected academic psychologist, a serious scientist who had already made several substantial contributions to his field, and was considered a rising star. By 1970, he would be a confirmed mystic, sentenced to twenty years in prison, in a cell next to Charles Manson, and claiming to different people that he was the reincarnation of Gurdjieff, Aleister Crowley, and Jesus Christ. In the fifties, Leary and his wife had an open relationship, in which they were both allowed to sleep with other people, but weren't allowed to form emotional attachments to them. Unfortunately, Leary *had* formed an emotional attachment to another woman, and had started spending so much time with her that his wife was convinced he was going to leave her. On top of that, Leary was an alcoholic, and was prone to get into drunken rows with his wife. He woke up on the morning of his thirty-fifth birthday, hung over after one of those rows, to find that she had died by suicide while he slept, leaving a note saying that she knew he was going to leave her and that her life would be meaningless without him. This was only months after Leary had realised that the field he was working in, to which he had devoted his academic career, was seriously broken. Along with a colleague, Frank Barron, he published a paper on the results of clinical psychotherapy, "Changes in psychoneurotic patients with and without psychotherapy" which analysed the mental health of a group of people who had been through psychotherapy, and found that a third of them improved, a third stayed the same, and a third got worse. The problem was that there was a control group, of people with the same conditions who were put on a waiting list and told to wait the length of time that the therapy patients were being treated. A third of them improved, a third stayed the same, and a third got worse. In other words, psychotherapy as it was currently practised had no measurable effect at all on patients' health. This devastated Leary, as you might imagine. But more through inertia than anything else, he continued working in the field, and in 1957 he published what was regarded as a masterwork -- his book Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality: A Functional Theory and Methodology for Personality Evaluation. Leary's book was a challenge to the then-dominant idea in psychology, behaviourism, which claimed that it made no sense to talk about anyone's internal thoughts or feelings -- all that mattered was what could be measured, stimuli and responses, and that in a very real sense the unmeasurable thoughts people had didn't exist at all. Behaviourism looked at every human being as a mechanical black box, like a series of levers. Leary, by contrast, analysed human interactions as games, in which people took on usual roles, but were able, if they realised this, to change the role or even the game itself. It was very similar to the work that Eric Berne was doing at the same time, and which would later be popularised in Berne's book Games People Play. Berne's work was so popular that it led to the late-sixties hit record "Games People Play" by Joe South: [Excerpt: Joe South: "Games People Play"] But in 1957, between Leary and Berne, Leary was considered the more important thinker among his peers -- though some thought of him as more of a showman, enthralled by his own ideas about how he was going to change psychology, than a scientist, and some thought that he was unfairly taking credit for the work of lesser-known but better researchers. But by 1958, the effects of the traumas Leary had gone through a couple of years earlier were at their worst. He was starting to become seriously ill -- from the descriptions, probably from something stress-related and psychosomatic -- and he took his kids off to Europe, where he was going to write the great American novel. But he rapidly ran through his money, and hadn't got very far with the novel. He was broke, and ill, and depressed, and desperate, but then in 1959 his old colleague Frank Barron, who was on holiday in the area, showed up, and the two had a conversation that changed Leary's life forever in multiple ways. The first of the conversational topics would have the more profound effect, though that wouldn't be apparent at first. Barron talked to Leary about his previous holiday, when he'd visited Mexico and taken psilocybin mushrooms. These had been used by Mexicans for centuries, but the first publication about them in English had only been in 1955 -- the same year when Leary had had other things on his mind -- and they were hardly known at all outside Mexico. Barron talked about the experience as being the most profound, revelatory, experience of his life. Leary thought his friend sounded like a madman, but he humoured him for the moment. But Barron also mentioned that another colleague was on holiday in the same area. David McClelland, head of the Harvard Center for Personality Research, had mentioned to Barron that he had just read Diagnosis of Personality and thought it a work of genius. McClelland hired Leary to work for him at Harvard, and that was where Leary met Ram Dass. [Excerpt from "The Psychedelic Experience"] Ram Dass was not the name that Dass was going by at the time -- he was going by his birth name, and only changed his name a few years later, after the events we're talking about -- but as always, on this podcast we don't use people's deadnames, though his is particularly easy to find as it's still the name on the cover of his most famous book, which we'll be talking about shortly. Dass was another psychologist at the Centre for Personality Research, and he would be Leary's closest collaborator for the next several years. The two men would become so close that at several points Leary would go travelling and leave his children in Dass' care for extended periods of time. The two were determined to revolutionise academic psychology. The start of that revolution didn't come until summer 1960. While Leary was on holiday in Cuernavaca in Mexico, a linguist and anthropologist he knew, Lothar Knauth, mentioned that one of the old women in the area collected those magic mushrooms that Barron had been talking about. Leary decided that that might be a fun thing to do on his holiday, and took a few psilocybin mushrooms. The effect was extraordinary. Leary called this, which had been intended only as a bit of fun, "the deepest religious experience of my life". [Excerpt from "The Psychedelic Experience"] He returned to Harvard after his summer holiday and started what became the Harvard Psilocybin Project. Leary and various other experimenters took controlled doses of psilocybin and wrote down their experiences, and Leary believed this would end up revolutionising psychology, giving them insights unattainable by other methods. The experimenters included lecturers, grad students, and people like authors Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, and Alan Watts, who popularised Zen Buddhism in the West. Dass didn't join the project until early 1961 -- he'd actually been on the holiday with Leary, but had arrived a few days after the mushroom experiment, and nobody had been able to get hold of the old woman who knew where to find the mushrooms, so he'd just had to deal with Leary telling him about how great it was rather than try it himself. He then spent a semester as a visiting scholar at Berkeley, so he didn't get to try his first trip until February 1961. Dass, on his first trip, first had a revelation about the nature of his own true soul, then decided at three in the morning that he needed to go and see his parents, who lived nearby, and tell them the good news. But there was several feet of snow, and so he decided he must save his parents from the snow, and shovel the path to their house. At three in the morning. Then he saw them looking out the window at him, he waved, and then started dancing around the shovel. He later said “Until that moment I was always trying to be the good boy, looking at myself through other people's eyes. What did the mothers, fathers, teachers, colleagues want me to be? That night, for the first time, I felt good inside. It was OK to be me.” The Harvard Psilocybin Project soon became the Harvard Psychedelic Project. The term "psychedelic", meaning "soul revealing", was coined by the British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond, who had been experimenting with hallucinogens for years, and had guided Aldous Huxley on the mescaline trip described in The Doors of Perception. Osmond and Huxley had agreed that the term "psychotomimetic", in use at the time, which meant "mimicking psychosis", wasn't right -- it was too negative. They started writing letters to each other, suggesting alternative terms. Huxley came up with "phanerothyme", the Greek for "soul revealing", and wrote a little couplet to Osmond: To make this trivial world sublime Take half a gramme of phanerothyme. Osmond countered with the Latin equivalent: To fathom hell or soar angelic Just take a pinch of psychedelic Osmond also inspired Leary's most important experimental work of the early sixties. Osmond had got to know Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and had introduced W. to LSD. W. had become sober after experiencing a profound spiritual awakening and a vision of white light while being treated for his alcoholism using the so-called "belladonna cure" -- a mixture of various hallucinogenic and toxic substances that was meant to cure alcoholism. When W. tried LSD, he found it replicated his previous spiritual experience and became very evangelistic about its use by alcoholics, thinking it could give them the same kind of awakening he'd had. Leary became convinced that if LSD could work on alcoholics, it could also be used to help reshape the personalities of habitual criminals and lead them away from reoffending. His idea for how to treat people was based, in part, on the ideas of transactional analysis. There is always a hierarchical relationship between a therapist and their patient, and that hierarchical relationship itself, in Leary's opinion, forced people into particular game roles and made it impossible for them to relate as equals, and thus impossible for the therapist to truly help the patient. So his idea was that there needed to be a shared bonding experience between patient and doctor. So in his prison experiments, he and the other people involved, including Ralph Metzner, one of his grad students, would take psilocybin *with* the patients. In short-term follow-ups the patients who went through this treatment process were less depressed, felt better, and were only half as likely to reoffend as normal prisoners. But critics pointed out that the prisoners had been getting a lot of individual attention and support, and there was no control group getting that support without the psychedelics. [Excerpt: The Psychedelic Experience] As the experiments progressed, though, things were becoming tense within Harvard. There was concern that some of the students who were being given psilocybin were psychologically vulnerable and were being put at real risk. There was also worry about the way that Leary and Dass were emphasising experience over analysis, which was felt to be against the whole of academia. Increasingly it looked like there was a clique forming as well, with those who had taken part in their experiments on the inside and looking down on those outside, and it looked to many people like this was turning into an actual cult. This was simply not what the Harvard psychology department was meant to be doing. And one Harvard student was out to shut them down for good, and his name was Andrew Weil. Weil is now best known as one of the leading lights in alternative health, and has made appearances on Oprah and Larry King Live, but for many years his research interest was in mind-altering chemicals -- his undergraduate thesis was on the use of nutmeg to induce different states of consciousness. At this point Weil was an undergraduate, and he and his friend Ronnie Winston had both tried to get involved in the Harvard Psilocybin Project, but had been turned down -- while they were enthusiastic about it, they were also undergraduates, and Leary and Dass had agreed with the university that they wouldn't be using undergraduates in their project, and that only graduate students, faculty, and outsiders would be involved. So Weil and Winston had started their own series of experiments, using mescaline after they'd been unable to get any psilocybin -- they'd contacted Aldous Huxley, the author of The Doors of Perception and an influence on Leary and Dass' experiments, and asked him where they could get mescaline, and he'd pointed them in the right direction. But then Winston and Dass had become friends, and Dass had given Winston some psilocybin -- not as part of his experiments, so Dass didn't think he was crossing a line, but just socially. Weil saw this as a betrayal by Winston, who stopped hanging round with him once he became close to Dass, and also as a rejection of him by Dass and Leary. If they'd give Winston psilocybin, why wouldn't they give it to him? Weil was a writer for the Harvard Crimson, Harvard's newspaper, and he wrote a series of exposes on Leary and Dass for the Crimson. He went to his former friend Winston's father and told him "Your son is getting drugs from a faculty member. If your son will admit to that charge, we'll cut out your son's name. We won't use it in the article." Winston did admit to the charge, under pressure from his father, and was brought to tell the Dean, saying to the Dean “Yes, sir, I did, and it was the most educational experience I've had at Harvard.” Weil wrote about this for the Crimson, and the story was picked up by the national media. Weil eventually wrote about Leary and Dass for Look magazine, where he wrote “There were stories of students and others using hallucinogens for seductions, both heterosexual and homosexual.” And this seems actually to have been a big part of Weil's motivation. While Dass and Winston always said that their relationship was purely platonic, Dass was bisexual, and Weil seems to have assumed his friend had been led astray by an evil seducer. This was at a time when homophobia and biphobia were even more prevalent in society than they are now, and part of the reason Leary and Dass fell out in the late sixties is that Leary started to see Dass' sexuality as evil and perverted and something they should be trying to use LSD to cure. The experiments became a national scandal, and one of the reasons that LSD was criminalised a few years later. Dass was sacked for giving drugs to undergraduates; Leary had gone off to Mexico to get away from the stress, leaving his kids with Dass. He would be sacked for going off without permission and leaving his classes untaught. As Leary and Dass were out of Harvard, they had to look for other sources of funding. Luckily, Dass turned William Mellon Hitchcock, the heir to the Mellon oil fortune, on to acid, and he and his brother Tommy and sister Peggy gave them the run of a sixty-four room mansion, named Millbrook. When they started there, they were still trying to be academics, but over the five years they were at Millbrook it became steadily less about research and more of a hippie commune, with regular visitors and long-term residents including Alan Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and the jazz musician Maynard Ferguson, who would later get a small amount of fame with jazz-rock records like his version of "MacArthur Park": [Excerpt: Maynard Ferguson, "MacArthur Park"] It was at Millbrook that Leary, Dass, and Metzner would write the book that became The Psychedelic Experience. This book was inspired by the Bardo Thödol, a book allegedly written by Padmasambhava, the man who introduced Buddhism to Tibet in the eighth century, though no copies of it are known to have existed before the fourteenth century, when it was supposedly discovered by Karma Lingpa. Its title translates as Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State, but it was translated into English under the name The Tibetan Book of the Dead, as Walter Evans-Wentz, who compiled and edited the first English translation was, like many Westerners who studied Buddhism in the early part of the twentieth century, doing so because he was an occultist and a member of the Theosophical Society, which believes the secret occult masters of the world live in Tibet, but which also considered the Egyptian Book of the Dead -- a book which bears little relationship to the Bardo Thödol, and which was written thousands of years earlier on a different continent -- to be a major religious document. So it was through that lens that Evans-Wentz was viewing the Bardo Thödol, and he renamed the book to emphasise what he perceived as its similarities. Part of the Bardo Thödol is a description of what happens to someone between death and rebirth -- the process by which the dead person becomes aware of true reality, and then either transcends it or is dragged back into it by their lesser impulses -- and a series of meditations that can be used to help with that transcendence. In the version published as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, this is accompanied by commentary from Evans-Wentz, who while he was interested in Buddhism didn't actually know that much about Tibetan Buddhism, and was looking at the text through a Theosophical lens, and mostly interpreting it using Hindu concepts. Later editions of Evans-Wentz's version added further commentary by Carl Jung, which looked at Evans-Wentz's version of the book through Jung's own lens, seeing it as a book about psychological states, not about anything more supernatural (although Jung's version of psychology was always a supernaturalist one, of course). His Westernised, psychologised, version of the book's message became part of the third edition. Metzner later said "At the suggestion of Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard we began using the Bardo Thödol ( Tibetan Book of the Dead) as a guide to psychedelic sessions. The Tibetan Buddhists talked about the three phases of experience on the “intermediate planes” ( bardos) between death and rebirth. We translated this to refer to the death and the rebirth of the ego, or ordinary personality. Stripped of the elaborate Tibetan symbolism and transposed into Western concepts, the text provided a remarkable parallel to our findings." Leary, Dass, and Metzner rewrote the book into a form that could be used to guide a reader through a psychedelic trip, through the death of their ego and its rebirth. Later, Leary would record an abridged audiobook version, and it's this that we've been hearing excerpts of during this podcast so far: [Excerpt: The Psychedelic Experience "Turn off your mind, relax, float downstream" about 04:15] When we left the Beatles, they were at the absolute height of their fame, though in retrospect the cracks had already begun to show. Their second film had been released, and the soundtrack had contained some of their best work, but the title track, "Help!", had been a worrying insight into John Lennon's current mental state. Immediately after making the film and album, of course, they went back out touring, first a European tour, then an American one, which probably counts as the first true stadium tour. There had been other stadium shows before the Beatles 1965 tour -- we talked way back in the first episodes of the series about how Sister Rosetta Tharpe had a *wedding* that was a stadium gig. But of course there are stadiums and stadiums, and the Beatles' 1965 tour had them playing the kind of venues that no other musician, and certainly no other rock band, had ever played. Most famously, of course, there was the opening concert of the tour at Shea Stadium, where they played to an audience of fifty-five thousand people -- the largest audience a rock band had ever played for, and one which would remain a record for many years. Most of those people, of course, couldn't actually hear much of anything -- the band weren't playing through a public address system designed for music, just playing through the loudspeakers that were designed for commentating on baseball games. But even if they had been playing through the kind of modern sound systems used today, it's unlikely that the audience would have heard much due to the overwhelming noise coming from the crowd. Similarly, there were no live video feeds of the show or any of the other things that nowadays make it at least possible for the audience to have some idea what is going on on stage. The difference between this and anything that anyone had experienced before was so great that the group became overwhelmed. There's video footage of the show -- a heavily-edited version, with quite a few overdubs and rerecordings of some tracks was broadcast on TV, and it's also been shown in cinemas more recently as part of promotion for an underwhelming documentary about the Beatles' tours -- and you can see Lennon in particular becoming actually hysterical during the performance of "I'm Down", where he's playing the organ with his elbows. Sadly the audio nature of this podcast doesn't allow me to show Lennon's facial expression, but you can hear something of the exuberance in the performance. This is from what is labelled as a copy of the raw audio of the show -- the version broadcast on TV had a fair bit of additional sweetening work done on it: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "I'm Down (Live at Shea Stadium)"] After their American tour they had almost six weeks off work to write new material before going back into the studio to record their second album of the year, and one which would be a major turning point for the group. The first day of the recording sessions for this new album, Rubber Soul, started with two songs of Lennon's. The first of these was "Run For Your Life", a song Lennon never later had much good to say about, and which is widely regarded as the worst song on the album. That song was written off a line from Elvis Presley's version of "Baby Let's Play House", and while Lennon never stated this, it's likely that it was brought to mind by the Beatles having met with Elvis during their US tour. But the second song was more interesting. Starting with "Help!", Lennon had been trying to write more interesting lyrics. This had been inspired by two conversations with British journalists -- Kenneth Allsop had told Lennon that while he liked Lennon's poetry, the lyrics to his songs were banal in comparison and he found them unlistenable as a result, while Maureen Cleave, a journalist who was a close friend with Lennon, had told him that she hadn't noticed a single word in any of his lyrics with more than two syllables, so he made more of an effort with "Help!", putting in words like "independence" and "insecure". As he said in one of his last interviews, "I was insecure then, and things like that happened more than once. I never considered it before. So after that I put a few words with three syllables in, but she didn't think much of them when I played it for her, anyway.” Cleave may have been an inspiration for "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)". There are very strong rumours that Lennon had an affair with Cleave in the mid-sixties, and if that's true it would definitely fit into a pattern. Lennon had many, many, affairs during his first marriage, both brief one-night stands and deeper emotional attachments, and those emotional attachments were generally with women who were slightly older, intellectual, somewhat exotic looking by the standards of 1960s Britain, and in the arts. Lennon later claimed to have had an affair with Eleanor Bron, the Beatles' co-star in Help!, though she always denied this, and it's fairly widely established that he did have an affair with Alma Cogan, a singer who he'd mocked during her peak of popularity in the fifties, but who would later become one of his closest friends: [Excerpt: Alma Cogan, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?"] And "Norwegian Wood", the second song recorded for Rubber Soul, started out as a confession to one of these affairs, a way of Lennon admitting it to his wife without really admitting it. The figure in the song is a slightly aloof, distant woman, and the title refers to the taste among Bohemian British people at the time for minimalist decor made of Scandinavian pine -- something that would have been a very obvious class signifier at the time. [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"] Lennon and McCartney had different stories about who wrote what in the song, and Lennon's own story seems to have changed at various times. What seems to have happened is that Lennon wrote the first couple of verses while on holiday with George Martin, and finished it off later with McCartney's help. McCartney seems to have come up with the middle eight melody -- which is in Dorian mode rather than the Mixolydian mode of the verses -- and to have come up with the twist ending, where the woman refuses to sleep with the protagonist and laughs at him, he goes to sleep in the bath rather than her bed, wakes up alone, and sets fire to the house in revenge. This in some ways makes "Norwegian Wood" the thematic centrepiece of the album that was to result, combining several of the themes its two songwriters came back to throughout the album and the single recorded alongside it. Like Lennon's "Run For Your Life" it has a misogynistic edge to it, and deals with taking revenge against a woman, but like his song "Girl", it deals with a distant, unattainable, woman, who the singer sees as above him but who has a slightly cruel edge -- the kind of girl who puts you down when friends are there, you feel a fool, is very similar to the woman who tells you to sit down but has no chairs in her minimalist flat. A big teaser who takes you half the way there is likely to laugh at you as you crawl off to sleep in the bath while she goes off to bed alone. Meanwhile, McCartney's two most popular contributions to the album, "Michelle" and "Drive My Car", also feature unattainable women, but are essentially comedy songs -- "Michelle" is a pastiche French song which McCartney used to play as a teenager while pretending to be foreign to impress girls, dug up and finished for the album, while "Drive My Car" is a comedy song with a twist in the punchline, just like "Norwegian Wood", though "Norwegian Wood"s twist is darker. But "Norwegian Wood" is even more famous for its music than for its lyric. The basis of the song is Lennon imitating Dylan's style -- something that Dylan saw, and countered with "Fourth Time Around", a song which people have interpreted multiple ways, but one of those interpretations has always been that it's a fairly vicious parody of "Norwegian Wood": [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Fourth Time Around"] Certainly Lennon thought that at first, saying a few years later "I was very paranoid about that. I remember he played it to me when he was in London. He said, what do you think? I said, I don't like it. I didn't like it. I was very paranoid. I just didn't like what I felt I was feeling – I thought it was an out and out skit, you know, but it wasn't. It was great. I mean he wasn't playing any tricks on me. I was just going through the bit." But the aspect of "Norwegian Wood" that has had more comment over the years has been the sitar part, played by George Harrison: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Norwegian Wood"] This has often been called the first sitar to be used on a rock record, and that may be the case, but it's difficult to say for sure. Indian music was very much in the air among British groups in September 1965, when the Beatles recorded the track. That spring, two records had almost simultaneously introduced Indian-influenced music into the pop charts. The first had been the Yardbirds' "Heart Full of Soul", released in June and recorded in April. In fact, the Yardbirds had actually used a sitar on their first attempt at recording the song, which if it had been released would have been an earlier example than the Beatles: [Excerpt: The Yardbirds, "Heart Full of Soul (first version)"] But in the finished recording they had replaced that with Jeff Beck playing a guitar in a way that made it sound vaguely like a sitar, rather than using a real one: [Excerpt: The Yardbirds, "Heart Full of Soul (single)"] Meanwhile, after the Yardbirds had recorded that but before they'd released it, and apparently without any discussion between the two groups, the Kinks had done something similar on their "See My Friends", which came out a few weeks after the Yardbirds record: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "See My Friends"] (Incidentally, that track is sometimes titled "See My Friend" rather than "See My Friends", but that's apparently down to a misprint on initial pressings rather than that being the intended title). As part of this general flowering of interest in Indian music, George Harrison had become fascinated with the sound of the sitar while recording scenes in Help! which featured some Indian musicians. He'd then, as we discussed in the episode on "Eight Miles High" been introduced by David Crosby on the Beatles' summer US tour to the music of Ravi Shankar. "Norwegian Wood" likely reminded Harrison of Shankar's work for a couple of reasons. The first is that the melody is very modal -- as I said before, the verses are in Mixolydian mode, while the middle eights are in Dorian -- and as we saw in the "Eight Miles High" episode Indian music is very modal. The second is that for the most part, the verse is all on one chord -- a D chord as Lennon originally played it, though in the final take it's capoed on the second fret so it sounds in E. The only time the chord changes at all is on the words "once had" in the phrase “she once had me” where for one beat each Lennon plays a C9 and a G (sounding as a D9 and A). Both these chords, in the fingering Lennon is using, feel to a guitarist more like "playing a D chord and lifting some fingers up or putting some down" rather than playing new chords, and this is a fairly common way of thinking about stuff particularly when talking about folk and folk-rock music -- you'll tend to get people talking about the "Needles and Pins" riff as being "an A chord where you twiddle your finger about on the D string" rather than changing between A, Asus2, and Asus4. So while there are chord changes, they're minimal and of a kind that can be thought of as "not really" chord changes, and so that may well have reminded Harrison of the drone that's so fundamental to Indian classical music. Either way, he brought in his sitar, and they used it on the track, both the version they cut on the first day of recording and the remake a week later which became the album track: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"] At the same time as the group were recording Rubber Soul, they were also working on two tracks that would become their next single -- released as a double A-side because the group couldn't agree which of the two to promote. Both of these songs were actual Lennon/McCartney collaborations, something that was increasingly rare at this point. One, "We Can Work it Out" was initiated by McCartney, and like many of his songs of this period was inspired by tensions in his relationship with his girlfriend Jane Asher -- two of his other songs for Rubber Soul were "I'm Looking Through You" and "You Won't See Me". The other, "Day Tripper", was initiated by Lennon, and had other inspirations: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Day Tripper"] John Lennon and George Harrison's first acid trip had been in spring of 1965, around the time they were recording Help! The fullest version of how they came to try it I've read was in an interview George Harrison gave to Creem magazine in 1987, which I'll quote a bit of: "I had a dentist who invited me and John and our ex-wives to dinner, and he had this acid he'd got off the guy who ran Playboy in London. And the Playboy guy had gotten it off, you know, the people who had it in America. What's his name, Tim Leary. And this guy had never had it himself, didn't know anything about it, but he thought it was an aphrodisiac and he had this girlfriend with huge breasts. He invited us down there with our blonde wives and I think he thought he was gonna have a scene. And he put it in our coffee without telling us—he didn't take any himself. We didn't know we had it, and we'd made an arrangement earlier—after we had dinner we were gonna go to this nightclub to see some friends of ours who were playing in a band. And I was saying, "OK, let's go, we've got to go," and this guy kept saying, "No, don't go, finish your coffee. Then, 20 minutes later or something, I'm saying, "C'mon John, we'd better go now. We're gonna miss the show." And he says we shouldn't go 'cause we've had LSD." They did leave anyway, and they had an experience they later remembered as being both profound and terrifying -- nobody involved had any idea what the effects of LSD actually were, and they didn't realise it was any different from cannabis or amphetamines. Harrison later described feelings of universal love, but also utter terror -- believing himself to be in hell, and that world war III was starting. As he said later "We'd heard of it, but we never knew what it was about and it was put in our coffee maliciously. So it really wasn't us turning each other or the world or anything—we were the victims of silly people." But both men decided it was an experience they needed to have again, and one they wanted to share with their friends. Their next acid trip was the one that we talked about in the episode on "Eight Miles High", with Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Peter Fonda. That time Neil Aspinall and Ringo took part as well, but at this point Paul was still unsure about taking it -- he would later say that he was being told by everyone that it changed your worldview so radically you'd never be the same again, and he was understandably cautious about this. Certainly it had a profound effect on Lennon and Harrison -- Starr has never really talked in detail about his own experiences. Harrison would later talk about how prior to taking acid he had been an atheist, but his experiences on the drug gave him an unshakeable conviction in the existence of God -- something he would spend the rest of his life exploring. Lennon didn't change his opinions that drastically, but he did become very evangelistic about the effects of LSD. And "Day Tripper" started out as a dig at what he later described as weekend hippies, who took acid but didn't change the rest of their lives -- which shows a certain level of ego in a man who had at that point only taken acid twice himself -- though in collaboration with McCartney it turned into another of the rather angry songs about unavailable women they were writing at this point. The line "she's a big teaser, she took me half the way there" apparently started as "she's a prick teaser": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Day Tripper"] In the middle of the recording of Rubber Soul, the group took a break to receive their MBEs from the Queen. Officially the group were awarded these because they had contributed so much to British exports. In actual fact, they received them because the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, had a government with a majority of only four MPs and was thinking about calling an election to boost his majority. He represented a Liverpool constituency, and wanted to associate his Government and the Labour Party with the most popular entertainers in the UK. "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work it Out" got their TV premiere on a show recorded for Granada TV, The Music of Lennon and McCartney, and fans of British TV trivia will be pleased to note that the harmonium Lennon plays while the group mimed "We Can Work it Out" in that show is the same one that was played in Coronation Street by Ena Sharples -- the character we heard last episode being Davy Jones' grandmother. As well as the Beatles themselves, that show included other Brian Epstein artists like Cilla Black and Billy J Kramer singing songs that Lennon and McCartney had given to them, plus Peter Sellers, the Beatles' comedy idol, performing "A Hard Day's Night" in the style of Laurence Olivier as Richard III: [Excerpt: Peter Sellers, "A Hard Day's Night"] Another performance on the show was by Peter and Gordon, performing a hit that Paul had given to them, one of his earliest songs: [Excerpt: Peter and Gordon, "A World Without Love"] Peter Asher, of Peter and Gordon, was the brother of Paul McCartney's girlfriend, the actor Jane Asher. And while the other three Beatles were living married lives in mansions in suburbia, McCartney at this point was living with the Asher family in London, and being introduced by them to a far more Bohemian, artistic, hip crowd of people than he had ever before experienced. They were introducing him to types of art and culture of which he had previously been ignorant, and while McCartney was the only Beatle so far who hadn't taken LSD, this kind of mind expansion was far more appealing to him. He was being introduced to art film, to electronic composers like Stockhausen, and to ideas about philosophy and art that he had never considered. Peter Asher was a friend of John Dunbar, who at the time was Marianne Faithfull's husband, though Faithfull had left him and taken up with Mick Jagger, and of Barry Miles, a writer, and in September 1965 the three men had formed a company, Miles, Asher and Dunbar Limited, or MAD for short, which had opened up a bookshop and art gallery, the Indica Gallery, which was one of the first places in London to sell alternative or hippie books and paraphernalia, and which also hosted art events by people like members of the Fluxus art movement. McCartney was a frequent customer, as you might imagine, and he also encouraged the other Beatles to go along, and the Indica Gallery would play an immense role in the group's history, which we'll look at in a future episode. But the first impact it had on the group was when John and Paul went to the shop in late 1965, just after the recording and release of Rubber Soul and the "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out" single, and John bought a copy of The Psychedelic Experience by Leary, Dass, and Metzner. He read the book on a plane journey while going on holiday -- reportedly while taking his third acid trip -- and was inspired. When he returned, he wrote a song which became the first track to be recorded for the group's next album, Revolver: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows"] The lyrics were inspired by the parts of The Psychedelic Experience which were in turn inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Now, it's important to put it this way because most people who talk about this record have apparently never read the book which inspired it. I've read many, many, books on the Beatles which claim that The Psychedelic Experience simply *is* the Tibetan Book of the Dead, slightly paraphrased. In fact, while the authors use the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a structure on which to base their book, much of the book is detailed descriptions of Leary, Dass, and Metzner's hypotheses about what is actually happening during a psychedelic trip, and their notes on the book -- in particular they provide commentaries to the commentaries, giving their view of what Carl Jung meant when he talked about it, and of Evans-Wentz's opinions, and especially of a commentary by Anagarika Govinda, a Westerner who had taken up Tibetan Buddhism seriously and become a monk and one of its most well-known exponents in the West. By the time it's been filtered through so many different viewpoints and perspectives, each rewriting and reinterpreting it to suit their own preconceived ideas, they could have started with a book on the habitat of the Canada goose and ended with much the same result. Much of this is the kind of mixture between religious syncretism and pseudoscience that will be very familiar to anyone who has encountered New Age culture in any way, statements like "The Vedic sages knew the secret; the Eleusinian Initiates knew it; the Tantrics knew it. In all their esoteric writings they whisper the message: It is possible to cut beyond ego-consciousness, to tune in on neurological processes which flash by at the speed of light, and to become aware of the enormous treasury of ancient racial knowledge welded into the nucleus of every cell in your body". This kind of viewpoint is one that has been around in one form or another since the nineteenth century religious revivals in America that led to Mormonism, Christian Science, and the New Thought. It's found today in books and documentaries like The Secret and the writings of people like Deepak Chopra, and the idea is always the same one -- people thousands of years ago had a lost wisdom that has only now been rediscovered through the miracle of modern science. This always involves a complete misrepresentation of both the lost wisdom and of the modern science. In particular, Leary, Dass, and Metzner's book freely mixes between phrases that sound vaguely scientific, like "There are no longer things and persons but only the direct flow of particles", things that are elements of Tibetan Buddhism, and references to ego games and "game-existence" which come from Leary's particular ideas of psychology as game interactions. All of this is intermingled, and so the claims that some have made that Lennon based the lyrics on the Tibetan Book of the Dead itself are very wrong. Rather the song, which he initially called "The Void", is very much based on Timothy Leary. The song itself was very influenced by Indian music. The melody line consists of only four notes -- E, G, C, and B flat, over a space of an octave: [Demonstrates] This sparse use of notes is very similar to the pentatonic scales in a lot of folk music, but that B-flat makes it the Mixolydian mode, rather than the E minor pentatonic scale our ears at first make it feel like. The B-flat also implies a harmony change -- Lennon originally sang the whole song over one chord, a C, which has the notes C, E, and G in it, but a B-flat note implies instead a chord of C7 -- this is another one of those occasions where you just put one finger down to change the chord while playing, and I suspect that's what Lennon did: [Demonstrates] Lennon's song was inspired by Indian music, but what he wanted was to replicate the psychedelic experience, and this is where McCartney came in. McCartney was, as I said earlier, listening to a lot of electronic composers as part of his general drive to broaden his mind, and in particular he had been listening to quite a bit of Karlheinz Stockhausen. Stockhausen was a composer who had studied with Olivier Messiaen in the 1940s, and had then become attached to the Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète along with Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Edgard Varese and others, notably Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry. These composers were interested in a specific style of music called musique concrète, a style that had been pioneered by Schaeffer. Musique concrète is music that is created from, or at least using, prerecorded sounds that have been electronically altered, rather than with live instruments. Often this would involve found sound -- music made not by instruments at all, but by combining recorded sounds of objects, like with the first major work of musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer's Cinq études de bruits: [Excerpt: Pierre Schaeffer, "Etude aux Chemins de faire" (from Cinq études de bruits)] Early on, musique concrète composers worked in much the same way that people use turntables to create dance music today -- they would have multiple record players, playing shellac discs, and a mixing desk, and they would drop the needle on the record players to various points, play the records backwards, and so forth. One technique that Schaeffer had come up with was to create records with a closed groove, so that when the record finished, the groove would go back to the start -- the record would just keep playing the same thing over and over and over. Later, when magnetic tape had come into use, Schaeffer had discovered you could get the same effect much more easily by making an actual loop of tape, and had started making loops of tape whose beginnings were stuck to their ending -- again creating something that could keep going over and over. Stockhausen had taken up the practice of using tape loops, most notably in a piece that McCartney was a big admirer of, Gesang der Jeunglinge: [Excerpt: Karlheinz Stockhausen, "Gesang der Jeunglinge"] McCartney suggested using tape loops on Lennon's new song, and everyone was in agreement. And this is the point where George Martin really starts coming into his own as a producer for the group. Martin had always been a good producer, but his being a good producer had up to this point mostly consisted of doing little bits of tidying up and being rather hands-off. He'd scored the strings on "Yesterday", played piano parts, and made suggestions like speeding up "Please Please Me" or putting the hook of "Can't Buy Me Love" at the beginning. Important contributions, contributions that turned good songs into great records, but nothing that Tony Hatch or Norrie Paramor or whoever couldn't have done. Indeed, his biggest contribution had largely been *not* being a Hatch or Paramor, and not imposing his own songs on the group, letting their own artistic voices flourish. But at this point Martin's unique skillset came into play. Martin had specialised in comedy records before his work with the Beatles, and he had worked with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan of the Goons, making records that required a far odder range of sounds than the normal pop record: [Excerpt: The Goons, "Unchained Melody"] The Goons' radio show had used a lot of sound effects created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a department of the BBC that specialised in creating musique concrète, and Martin had also had some interactions with the Radiophonic Workshop. In particular, he had worked with Maddalena Fagandini of the Workshop on an experimental single combining looped sounds and live instruments, under the pseudonym "Ray Cathode": [Excerpt: Ray Cathode, "Time Beat"] He had also worked on a record that is if anything even more relevant to "Tomorrow Never Knows". Unfortunately, that record is by someone who has been convicted of very serious sex offences. In this case, Rolf Harris, the man in question, was so well-known in Britain before his arrest, so beloved, and so much a part of many people's childhoods, that it may actually be traumatic for people to hear his voice knowing about his crimes. So while I know that showing the slightest consideration for my listeners' feelings will lead to a barrage of comments from angry old men calling me a "woke snowflake" for daring to not want to retraumatise vulnerable listeners, I'll give a little warning before I play the first of two segments of his recordings in a minute. When I do, if you skip forward approximately ninety seconds, you'll miss that section out. Harris was an Australian all-round entertainer, known in Britain for his novelty records, like the unfortunately racist "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" -- which the Beatles later recorded with him in a non-racist version for a BBC session. But he had also, in 1960, recorded and released in Australia a song he'd written based on his understanding of Aboriginal Australian religious beliefs, and backed by Aboriginal musicians on didgeridoo. And we're going to hear that clip now: [Excerpt. Rolf Harris, "Sun Arise" original] EMI, his British label, had not wanted to release that as it was, so he'd got together with George Martin and they'd put together a new version, for British release. That had included a new middle-eight, giving the song a tiny bit of harmonic movement, and Martin had replaced the didgeridoos with eight cellos, playing a drone: [Excerpt: Rolf Harris, "Sun Arise", 1962 version ] OK, we'll just wait a few seconds for anyone who skipped that to catch up... Now, there are some interesting things about that track. That is a track based on a non-Western religious belief, based around a single drone -- the version that Martin produced had a chord change for the middle eight, but the verses were still on the drone -- using the recording studio to make the singer's voice sound different, with a deep, pulsating, drum sound, and using a melody with only a handful of notes, which doesn't start on the tonic but descends to it. Sound familiar? Oh, and a young assistant engineer had worked with George Martin on that session in 1962, in what several sources say was their first session together, and all sources say was one of their first. That young assistant engineer was Geoff Emerick, who had now been promoted to the main engineer role, and was working his first Beatles session in that role on “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Emerick was young and eager to experiment, and he would become a major part of the Beatles' team for the next few years, acting as engineer on all their recordings in 1966 and 67, and returning in 1969 for their last album. To start with, the group recorded a loop of guitar and drums, heavily treated: [Excerpt: "Tomorrow Never Knows", loop] That loop was slowed down to half its speed, and played throughout: [Excerpt: "Tomorrow Never Knows", loop] Onto that the group overdubbed a second set of live drums and Lennon's vocal. Lennon wanted his voice to sound like the Dalai Lama singing from a mountaintop, or like thousands of Tibetan monks. Obviously the group weren't going to fly to Tibet and persuade monks to sing for them, so they wanted some unusual vocal effect. This was quite normal for Lennon, actually. One of the odd things about Lennon is that while he's often regarded as one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time, he always hated his own voice and wanted to change it in the studio. After the Beatles' first album there's barely a dry Lennon solo vocal anywhere on any record he ever made. Either he would be harmonising with someone else, or he'd double-track his vocal, or he'd have it drenched in reverb, or some other effect -- anything to stop it sounding quite so much like him. And Geoff Emerick had the perfect idea. There's a type of speaker called a Leslie speaker, which was originally used to give Hammond organs their swirling sound, but which can be used with other instruments as well. It has two rotating speakers inside it, a bass one and a treble one, and it's the rotation that gives the swirling sound. Ken Townsend, the electrical engineer working on the record, hooked up the speaker from Abbey Road's Hammond organ to Lennon's mic, and Lennon was ecstatic with the sound: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows", take one] At least, he was ecstatic with the sound of his vocal, though he did wonder if it might be more interesting to get the same swirling effect by tying himself to a rope and being swung round the microphone The rest of the track wasn't quite working, though, and they decided to have a second attempt. But Lennon had been impressed enough by Emerick that he decided to have a chat with him about music -- his way of showing that Emerick had been accepted. He asked if Emerick had heard the new Tiny Tim record -- which shows how much attention Lennon was actually paying to music at this point. This was two years before Tim's breakthrough with "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", and his first single (unless you count a release from 1963 that was only released as a 78, in the sixties equivalent of a hipster cassette-only release), a version of "April Showers" backed with "Little Girl" -- the old folk song also known as "In the Pines" or "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?": [Excerpt: Tiny Tim, "Little Girl"] Unfortunately for Emerick, he hadn't heard the record, and rather than just say so he tried bluffing, saying "Yes, they're great". Lennon laughed at his attempt to sound like he knew what he was talking about, before explaining that Tiny Tim was a solo artist, though he did say "Nobody's really sure if it's actually a guy or some drag queen". For the second attempt, they decided to cut the whole backing track live rather than play to a loop. Lennon had had trouble staying in sync with the loop, but they had liked the thunderous sound that had been got from slowing the tape down. As Paul talked with Ringo about his drum part, suggesting a new pattern for him to play, Emerick went down into the studio from the control room and made some adjustments. He first deadened the sound of the bass drum by sticking a sweater in it -- it was actually a promotional sweater with eight arms, made when the film Help! had been provisionally titled Eight Arms to Hold You, which Mal Evans had been using as packing material. He then moved the mics much, much closer to the drums that EMI studio rules allowed -- mics can be damaged by loud noises, and EMI had very strict rules about distance, not allowing them within two feet of the drum kit. Emerick decided to risk his job by moving the mics mere inches from the drums, reasoning that he would probably have Lennon's support if he did this. He then put the drum signal through an overloaded Fairfield limiter, giving it a punchier sound than anything that had been recorded in a British studio up to that point: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows", isolated drums] That wasn't the only thing they did to make the record sound different though. As well as Emerick's idea for the Leslie speaker, Ken Townsend had his own idea of how to make Lennon's voice sound different. Lennon had often complained about the difficulty of double-tracking his voice, and so Townsend had had an idea -- if you took a normal recording, fed it to another tape machine a few milliseconds out of sync with the first, and then fed it back into the first, you could create a double-tracked effect without having to actually double-track the vocal. Townsend suggested this, and it was used for the first time on the first half of "Tomorrow Never Knows", before the Leslie speaker takes over. The technique is now known as "artificial double-tracking" or ADT, but the session actually gave rise to another term, commonly used for a similar but slightly different tape-manipulation effect that had already been used by Les Paul among others. Lennon asked how they'd got the effect and George Martin started to explain, but then realised Lennon wasn't really interested in the technical details, and said "we take the original image and we split it through a double-bifurcated sploshing flange". From that point on, Lennon referred to ADT as "flanging", and the term spread, though being applied to the other technique. (Just as a quick aside, some people have claimed other origins for the term "flanging", and they may be right, but I think this is the correct story). Over the backing track they added tambourine and organ overdubs -- with the organ changing to a B flat chord when the vocal hits the B-flat note, even though the rest of the band stays on C -- and then a series of tape loops, mostly recorded by McCartney. There's a recording that circulates which has each of these loops isolated, played first forwards and then backwards at the speed they were recorded, and then going through at the speed they were used on the record, so let's go through these. There's what people call the "seagull" sound, which is apparently McCartney laughing, very distorted: [Excerpt: Tomorrow Never Knows loop] Then there's an orchestral chord: [Excerpt: Tomorrow Never Knows loop] A mellotron on its flute setting: [Excerpt: Tomorrow Never Knows loop] And on its string setting: [Excerpt: Tomorrow Never Knows loop] And a much longer loop of sitar music supplied by George: [Excerpt: Tomorrow Never Knows loop] Each of these loops were played on a different tape machine in a different part of Abbey Road -- they commandeered the entire studio complex, and got engineers to sit with the tapes looped round pencils and wine-glasses, while the Beatles supervised Emerick and Martin in mixing the loops into a single track. They then added a loop of a tamboura drone played by George, and the result was one of the strangest records ever released by a major pop group: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows"] While Paul did add some backwards guitar -- some sources say that this is a cut-up version of his solo from George's song "Taxman", but it's actually a different recording, though very much in the same style -- they decided that they were going to have a tape-loop solo rather than a guitar solo: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows"] And finally, at the end, there's some tack piano playing from McCartney, inspired by the kind of joke piano parts that used to turn up on the Goon Show. This was just McCartney messing about in the studio, but it was caught on tape, and they asked for it to be included at the end of the track. It's only faintly audible on the standard mixes of the track, but there was actually an alternative mono mix which was only released on British pressings of the album pressed on the first day of its release, before George Martin changed his mind about which mix should have been used, and that has a much longer excerpt of the piano on it. I have to say that I personally like that mix more, and the extra piano at the end does a wonderful job of undercutting what could otherwise be an overly-serious track, in much the same way as the laughter at the end of "Within You, Without You", which they recorded the next year. The same goes for the title -- the track was originally called "The Void", and the tape boxes were labelled "Mark One", but Lennon decided to name the track after one of Starr's malapropisms, the same way they had with "A Hard Day's Night", to avoid the track being too pompous. [Excerpt: Beatles interview] A track like that, of course, had to end the album. Now all they needed to do was to record another thirteen tracks to go before it. But that -- and what they did afterwards, is a story for another time. [Excerpt, "Tomorrow Never Knows (alternate mono mix)" piano tag into theme music]