Tag Archives: Tipping points

1980 ➤ The Lennon we knew: unfulfilled talent with a genius for making friends the world over

John Lennon, Yoko Ono, New York City, 1980,Allan Tannenbaum

The last pictures: Allan Tannenbaum photographed John Lennon and Yoko Ono throughout November 1980, the month before the murder. The couple were emerging from a self-imposed five-year seclusion to prepare for the release of Double Fantasy, Lennon’s final album

❚ ON THIS DAY IN 1980, ex-Beatle John Lennon, one the few gods in the international pantheon of pop, was shot dead in a New York City street, aged 40. Today it’s impossible to describe convincingly the impact of The Beatles throughout the exhilarating decade we call the Swinging 60s, when their songs themselves became barometers of change.

John Lennon death,Time magazine, Newsweek, 30th anniversary
Here is how music journalist and Beatles expert Paul Du Noyer encapsulated the contribution of the Lennon & McCartney partnership (1957-1970) in a mighty partwork published by The Sunday Times in 1997 titled 1000 Makers of Music:

“Whether measured in statistics or simply the love of the common people, the Beatles’ achievement looks unbeatable. And the engine of it all was the songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Before them, nobody dreamt that rock and roll would spawn enduring songs or that English rock could rule the world. Musically illiterate, the two Liverpool teenagers began by aping their American heroes and grew into writers of prolific originality. From the sunny simplicities of She Loves You, or A Hard Day’s Night, to the artful ingenuity of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever, they dazzled at every turn. Each was rocker and balladeer, lyricist and composer. They were a marriage of truth and beauty: Lennon soul-baring and verbally acrobatic (Norwegian Wood, I Am the Walrus); McCartney having the greater gift for melody (Yesterday, Hey Jude). Mostly they wrote alone, but raised one another’s game. Neither displayed the same consistency after the split [in 1970]. They lacked anyone with the nerve to say ‘Why don’t you change that bit?’ Their key work was A Day In the Life, 1967.”

➢ An index to Paul Du Noyer’s
published work on The Beatles

Today The Beatles hold the records for selling more albums in the United States than anybody else, and they head Billboard’s all-time top-selling Hot 100 list of singles artists, compiled in 2008. At home The Beatles have enjoyed more number one albums in the UK charts than anyone.

In the 60s, the mass media we know had scarcely left the starting line. This was a simpler era when any globally successful pop group was a novelty. When Beatlemania burst, it was a bombshell. The Fab Four, as the band were dubbed, found themselves writing many new rules in the celebrity game which fan worship then transmuted into the cultural phenomenon called Beatlemania — hordes of girls who stalked, pounced and screamed in frenzy — all accurately parodied in Dick Lester’s effervescent films, Help! and A Hard Day’s Night, based on the Beatles’ sudden worldwide fame. It also resulted in a deranged fan shooting his hero Lennon dead.

Beatlemania 1965, LHR

Typical Beatlemania: the band fly out from Heathrow bound for Austria and public vantage points are abrim with fans. Picture from Getty

Such sway did The Beatles hold, that their Merseyside cheek inspired provincial British pop groups not only to dare take on the unimaginative impresarios of the London entertainment mafia for whom blandness was the key to an act’s success, but then to take on the world showbiz mafia dominated by America, where within corporate frameworks artistic spontaneity might actively be indulged. The Beatles’ music — like the self-expressiveness of rock and roll — had a passion that chimed with the forces of grassroots social change, of liberation, emancipation, the debunking of authority figures, and the reform of cobwebbed institutions such as government, church and unions, all of which had been under attack by the stormtroopers of the satire movement since its dawn in 1960 with Beyond the Fringe.

The early Beatles hits captured the essential “sunny simplicities” of pop, though these acquired darker overtones as the decade matured and the increasingly “affluent society” of the West drew criticism from the New Left. By 1968, the daftness of the hippy dream saw The Beatles setting up Apple Corps. In 25-year-old Paul McCartney’s words this was to be “a business with a social and cultural environment where everyone gets a decent share of the profits. I suppose it’ll be like a sort of Western Communism”. Whateva.

John Lennon death, Daily Mirror, people magazine, 30th anniversary
One secret to The Beatles becoming fab was being born in the port city of Liverpool, which had long bred its own resilient sense of humour. The band empathised with the working-class values of their community in ways the few young bloods in London’s middle-aged mainstream media found refreshing. Their heritage also included Liverpool’s role as the “New York of Europe” and home to Britain’s oldest Black African community. Little Richard and Berry Gordy’s Motown were in their blood, and The Beatles maintained the noble trade between Britain and North America which has seen each enhance and export the other’s music in a continuing chain of call-and-response since World War 2.

The songwriting partnership of Lennon & McCartney was unique, as also was their distinct vocal style absorbed from heroes such as Ben E King, and they transformed popular music utterly, never to be equalled. In his most infamous article, The Times’s music critic William Mann concluded in 1963: “They have brought a distinctive and exhilarating flavour into a genre of music that was in danger of ceasing to be music at all.” [See more, below]

Lennon’s own undoubted greatness was co-dependent on McCartney. Moreover, it becomes impossible to estimate the loss to music caused by his early death, when many people feel that, despite his wit and intelligence, his shortcomings hindered him from fully realising his true potential. This was the unsentimental verdict of journalist Maureen Cleave — who had known The Beatles since writing the first significant piece about them — as expressed in her frank and moving obituary for The Observer magazine in December 1980.

Beatles, life magazine, tribute
My other Evening Standard colleague who knew Lennon well during the Beatles’ later years is Ray Connolly, Liverpudlian author of many illuminating articles on Lennon. Connolly was due to meet him the day after he was shot. (“The last phone call I made before going to bed was to the Lennons’ apartment in New York to tell them that I would be in New York at lunchtime the following day.”) He agrees the Beatle was no saint, but he was “someone who wrote and played rock and roll music better than virtually anyone else”. In addition: “When he died millions of people mourned the loss of a friend. His real genius was in his ability to communicate. He was to perfection a creature of his times.”

In his instant paperback published by Fontana within two months of Lennon’s shooting, Connolly writes:
“[The American composer] Aaron Copland once said that when future generations wanted to capture the spirit of the 60s all they would have to do was to play Beatle records. That’s true, but I would go further. Future historians will find that understanding of the 60s and the 70s widened immeasurably by focusing on the life of John Lennon. From Liverpool war baby to killer’s victim just across the road from Central Park, Lennon’s every interest told a story of the times. The widespread grief at his death was compared with the mourning which followed the assassination of President Kennedy [in 1963]. No one should have been surprised, though many were.”

One of the reasons was that “Lennon chose the role of anti-hero for much of his life, casting off the trappings of glamour, throwing aside the shell of lovable immortality. John Lennon would never have made a politician. Political heroes are pragmatists. That is their job. John Lennon had no time for pragmatism. He was outspoken about everything and everybody, and then bore the consequences for his outrageousness.”

Ray Connolly, John Lennon biography, Fontana— Extracted from John Lennon 1940-1980, a biography by Ray Connolly (Fontana 1981). For many more interviews with all the Beatles, visit Connolly’s website and archive that includes Lennon: The Lost Interviews in which the journalist claims that “arguably one of Lennon’s most inspired acts was his deliberate destruction of The Beatles in 1969”. Connolly’s latest novel The Sandman arose from his years writing about rock music, not least about John Lennon and the Beatles, and is now available on Kindle

HARMONIC ORIGINALITY AND RICHNESS
UNKNOWN TODAY

In 1000 Makers of Music critic Ian MacDonald summarised the contribution of the Beatles as a band:
“As expressive of England in the 1960s as the music of Benjamin Britten in the 1950s, The Beatles made some of the world’s best music during their decade (1960-1970)… from the infectious melodies of their early beat-group years, through the LSD adventure of their central period (Revolver, 1966, and their key work Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967). Each member of this Liverpool foursome made a vital contribution to a sound that blended boldness of melody and rhythm with a harmonic originality and richness of detail unknown in today’s pop… The Beatles redefined pop, revolutionised studio recording and completely dominated the culture of the 1960s. Their influence remains omnipresent.”

Ian MacDonald, Revolution in the Head, Lennon death, 30th anniversary— Ian MacDonald was the author of the monumental song-by-song analysis, Revolution in the Head: The Beatles Records and the Sixties (Pimlico).

His real name was Ian MacCormick and the book is worth consulting also for his essay Fabled Foursome, Disappearing Decade, on the social effects of the 1960s.

FOOTNOTES TO HISTORY

Richard Williams’s obituary for Ian MacDonald (1948-2003) in the Guardian noted: “Probably no other critic — not even the late William Mann of The Times, with his famous mention of pandiatonic clusters — contributed more to an enlightened enjoyment of the work of The Beatles than Ian MacDonald, who has died aged 54. In his book Revolution In The Head, first published in 1994, MacDonald carefully anatomised every record The Beatles made, drawing attention to broad themes, particular examples of inspiration and moments of human frailty alike. What could have been a dry task instead produced a volume so engagingly readable, so fresh in its perceptions and so enjoyable to argue with that, in an already overcrowded field, it became an immediate hit.”

Sample William Mann’s legendary and hilarious critique of Beatles technique from 1963:
“… One gets the impression that they think simultaneously of harmony and melody, so firmly are the major tonic sevenths and ninths built into their tunes, and the flat submediant key switches, so natural is the Aeolian cadence at the end of Not A Second Time (the chord progression which ends Mahler’s Song of the Earth) … Those submediant switches from C major into A flat major, and to a lesser extent mediant ones (eg, the octave ascent in the famous I Want To Hold Your Hand) are a trademark of Lennon-McCartney songs … The other trademark of their compositions is a firm and purposeful bass line with a musical life of its own; how Lennon and McCartney divide their creative responsibilites I have yet to discover, but it is perhaps significant that Paul is the bass guitarist of the group.”

➢ Extracted from What Songs The Beatles Sang
by William Mann, music critic of The Times

➢ William Mann’s monumental review of the Sgt Pepper album in 1967: The Beatles revive hopes of progress in pop music

FRESH INSIGHTS INTO BOY AND MAN

Over the past year Lennon’s life has twice been intelligently dramatised. In Nowhere Boy, visual artist Sam Taylor-Wood made her film debut directing several exceptional acting perfomances in an emotionally convincing evocation of Lennon’s adolescence during the austere 1950s, based on a novel by Lennon’s sister. For BBC television, Edmund Coulthard directed Lennon Naked, an unsentimentally credible account of Lennon’s confronting the desperate emotional crossroad that caused him to destroy the Beatles and abandon his wife and son for Yoko Ono.

DISILLUSIONED LENNON ON SELLING OUT

“When we played straight rock, there was nobody to touch us in Britain. As soon as we made it [as The Beatles], the edges were knocked off us, and Brian put us in suits. But we sold out. The music was dead before we even went on the theatre tour of Britain [Feb-June 1963, supporting other acts such as Roy Orbison]. We had to reduce an hour or two of playing to 20 minutes and go on and repeat the same 20 minutes every night. The Beatles’ music died there. As musicians we killed ourselves then.”

➢ John Lennon speaking in The New York Years
— this week’s BBC Radio 2 documentary by Susan Sarandon

Lennon’s Aunt Mimi Smith on his music

Aunt Mimi Smith, John Lennon“He used to drive me mad with his guitar playing, and I’ll always remember telling him, ‘The guitar’s all right for a hobby, John, but it won’t earn you any money’.”
➢ View the complete 1981 video interview
with Aunt Mimi

➢ 20 most underrated John Lennon tracks in NME Dec 14, 2010

Beatlemania, Hard Day's Night,

Beatlemania: the band on the run from fans and police in Dick Lester’s 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night

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➤ Status update: QueenLiz2 goes live on Facebook, though Her Maj will not be abused

Fully connected: No of course it’s not Her Maj, just one of the Queen’s impersonators. Photograph © by Mark Bourdillon

❚ NOT BAD — THE ROYAL FAMILY HAS MADE 209,000 friends in its first three days on Facebook. Rebranding what she has along called “The Firm” as The British Monarchy (TBM), Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II this week opened for business on the web’s biggest social network where democracy in action means that, although we cannot strictly become Her Majesty’s “Friend” as with every other Facebook member, we can express her popularity by clicking on the notorious “Like” button. Nor can we “poke” the Queen or Prince Philip in the jargon of getting acquainted online, but we can certainly scrawl on their wall, though the First Footman of the Interweb reserves the right to remove offensive comments. Indeed, he was kept on his toes on Monday heading off a stream of republican abuse that included the phrase “scrounging layabouts”.

Queen Elizabeth II, Johnson Beharry, VC

Here We are today: meeting Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, holder of the Victoria Cross (VC), Britain’s highest award for gallantry

Innovations include an exclusive “Near Me” application which will enable British citizens as well as Al-Qaeda to track the Queen’s every move on a searchable map of the United Kingdom. The Court Circular, the topical record of official royal engagements produced by the royal household, is also available on Facebook. For the past 200 years The Times and two other newspapers have enjoyed this privilege.

The TBM Facebook group is however reluctant to share the monarch’s intimate tastes such as those reported in yesterday’s Times and elsewhere: that the Queen’s favourite tipples are gin and Dubonnet; that her TV viewing includes The Bill (a police soap), and Kirsty’s Home Videos (compilations of the British public at play) which she asks her servants to tape when she’s busy, as well as re-runs of horse-racing; and that her cornflakes reside in a Tupperware container on the breakfast table.

An aide said: “Facebook is probably the last bastion of social media the royal household had not yet entered, and the Queen is keen to be fully signed up to the 21st century. The important thing about Facebook is its international reach, as the Queen is head of state in 16 countries.” The 84-year-old Queen uses a mobile phone, has her own private email address, surfs the web and ventured into online networking in 2007 by launching TheRoyalChannel on One’s Tube, sorry, YouTube, followed by @BritishMonarchy on Twitter last year and Flickr this summer.

Royal.gov.uk remains the official website of The British Monarchy which represents all 17 “working members” of the Royal Family. It confirms their official surname as Mountbatten-Windsor, and reminds us that the traditional greeting from men is a neck bow (from the head only) whilst women do a small curtsy. Otherwise, a handshake is fine.

➢ The British Monarchy at Facebook

LOOK WHO WON GONGS THE OTHER WEEK

Brian Cox, Vicki Michelle, ’Allo, ’Allo, University of Manchester, British Monarchy,investiture

Stars of TBM at Facebook: Brian Cox, TV meteor and professor of particle physics at the University of Manchester, displays his OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) following an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in October when the Queen honoured him for services to science. A Facebook comment asked: “What about his achievements as keyboard player for D:Ream?” The actress Vicki Michelle, best known for her role as the saucy French waitress Yvette in the BBC comedy series ’Allo, ’Allo (1982-92), won the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for charitable services. Her catchphrase when being clinched in the kitchen was: “Ooooooh, René.” © Press Association

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➤ Final spin confirmed for the Technics 1200, the DJ’s top turntable

Technics SL-1200MK6,DJing , scratching,SL-1200MK2,vinyl ,analogue, turntable

Last of its analogue line: the Technics SL-1200MK6 boasts robust hand-built construction, servo quartz direct drive, high torque and acoustic insulation, plus the universal S-shaped tone-arm for better tracking of the vinyl groove. Since its release in 1978, the MK2 has become the turntable of choice for deejaying and scratching

[From Tokyo Reporter, October 28, 2010]

❚ PANASONIC ANNOUNCED ON OCTOBER 20 that it is discontinuing the audio products within its Technics brand, most notably the legendary line of analogue turntables, of which the Technics SL-1200 MK6 is the last. “Panasonic decided to end production mainly due to a decline in demand for these analogue products and also the growing difficulty of procuring key analogue components necessary to sustain production,” the company said in statement.

Technics sl-1210, S-shaped tone-arm, analogue,turntable,

Tone-arm of the SL-1200 series: high-precision bearings

Last year, Japan’s last remaining vinyl pressing plant, owned by the production company Toyo Kasei, produced around 400,000 discs from its multifloor factory in Yokohama’s Tsurumi Ward, a far cry from the industry’s peak of 70m four decades ago. Panasonic said that sales of analogue decks today represent roughly 5% of the figure from ten years ago.

The SL-1200 series turntable, which enjoys a massive following in the deejay community, had been in continuous production since 1972. Since then 3.5m units have been produced, making the brand’s purple and grey logo (Technics written twice) an icon in clubs.

Tatsuo Sunaga, a leading club deejay in Japan, nevertheless sees those who prefer analogue as too obsessed to allow the format to become extinct. “I don’t think analogue users will lose interest,” he said.

➢ Read more… Dead spin: Panasonic discontinues
Technics analogue turntables — in Toyko Reporter

WATCH THE SCRATCHMASTER WHO CREATED THE GENRE:

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On this day in 1980 ➤ Spandau fired the starting gun for British clubland’s pop hopefuls: dada didi daaa!

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Nov 13, 1980: chart entry qualifies Spandau for their first Top of the Pops

◼ TODAY’S THE DAY THE HOTTEST NEW BAND OF 1980 released their debut single 30 years ago. Inside a year, Spandau Ballet had clicked with clubland’s coolest fan base, played only eight bookings, refused to make any demo tapes but instead spent that year winding up the media and the music industry with word-of-mouth rumours of a youth movement right behind them.

Steve Norman

Kilt-wearing Steve Norman’s lace-ups

On October 10 Spandau signed an unprecedented deal with Chrysalis, on October 27 they released To Cut a Long Story Short driven by a monophonic synthesiser: Daa-didi dada dada di-di dada didi daaa! On November 15 the single entered the chart. Bingo – Top of the Pops.

In 1980, for every new band firing up their ambition in the wings, Spandau acted as a fuel injection system. For electro bands who had been nibbling at success  — OMD, Simple Minds, Japan, Ultravox — here was the bandwagon. And they jumped on board.

NOW TURN TO OUR INSIDE PAGE

➢ Full timeline of Spandau Ballet’s wind-up year from tease dates to Top of the Pops in 12 months!

♫ Listen to Spandau’s To Cut a Long Story Short from 1980, recast acoustically for 2009:

HERE’S THE VIDEO FOR THE ORIGINAL, NOW IN HD…


➢ My full history of the birth of the New Romantics
in the Observer Music Magazine

➢ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s: 100+ acts who set the style for the new music of the 1980s

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30 years ago today ➤ First survey of their private worlds as the new young trigger a generation gap

John Maybury, Marek Kohn,Blitz culture,  ZG

Left, film-maker John Maybury in Tortures That Laugh © John Maybury 1978, artist’s collection; right, graphic from ZG magazine, issue one, 1980

❚ THE BLITZ CLUB SCENE EVOLVED RAPIDLY during the summer of 1980 as media coverage caught up, and it became clear that the New Romantics were not the only social group making waves. In the London Evening Standard’s On The Line column I had been following the Blitz Kids all year and, unsurprisingly, my nocturnal antics raised eyebrows at the Standard by day. “Do they talk sort of funny?” colleagues would ask about my bizarre playmates, meaning did they say “Leave it aht” instead of “OK yah”? Over time the generation gap I was reporting caught the attention of the Standard’s perceptive film critic Alexander Walker, who couldn’t read enough about Britain’s self-possessed youth movement. “Not so much a generation gap,” he observed sagely. “More a genus gap!” In this respect, the parallels with the digital natives of today’s Generation Y are spooky.

A key difference was the naked ambition of the media-savvy Blitz Kids who shunned rock music as a stone-age relic. They were spreading inspiration through Britain’s clubland, even as Steve Strange’s Tuesday nights at the Blitz ended suddenly on October 14, as also did Hell, their Thursday offshoot. Key players were changing trains. That very week Spandau Ballet had signed their first record deal, while I had been darting daily from concert to club to Kensington Market surveying the many competing expressions of youthful endeavour, then trying to persuade the editor Charles Wintour that A Significant Youthquake Was About To Break.

A month earlier during London fashion week I’d only just scraped into print with my first Pose Age report showing Melissa Caplan’s unisex tabards which were being worn to shock. “You’re making this up,” raged one senior editor whose veto against publishing was over-ruled by Wintour. Now I was proposing that this sweeping survey for On The Line should make a spectacular centre spread in the paper. Yet the eye-searing kids in our pictures were a bridge too far even for the enlightened Wintour, who sent me a memo saying it was all “Rather too esoteric for us”. Under protest, he finally conceded splitting the survey between two separate pages a week apart.

By Christmas Spandau’s single became a chart hit, along with Fade to Grey by Visage, fronted by Steve Strange. We could not know then how quickly Britain’s clubbing grapevine was to hurtle yet more clubland bands into the charts, many unveiled by sharp young managers the same age as the talent. Or that 1981 would soon be spinning like a New Romantic dynamo.

Evening Standard, Oct 16, 1980

First published in the Evening Standard, Oct 16, 1980

THE CYNICS may have written off London as dead in 1980 but somewhere under the skin a dozen small worlds are struggling to prove our swinging capital is not yet finished. Each private world has its own star system and its own code of conduct. Some steer a scenic route through the maze of being young, broke and having energy to spare. . .

➢ Click to continue reading
One week in the private worlds of the new young

Shaping ambitions at the Blitz in 1980: Lee Sheldrick, Melissa Caplan, Kim Bowen and Bob Elms

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