Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holiday ramblings from a flu-addled eggnoggin'

Hey Bizmojo people, I appreciate your patience and understanding. I have been laid out with the flu since Sunday, mostly in bed. Managed a modest Christmas with my family, which included a wonderful brunch of French toast made with challah from my friends Neccia and Betty at Buttercup Bakery and Bistro. Other than that, it's been kind of dodgy. On the bright side, I've lost five pounds -- take that New Year's resolutions! -- and managed to read all of Tune In: The Beatles All These Years, a veritable tome by Mark Lewisohn, who has made a career of chronicling the Fab Four. It's Volume One of a three-part epic and ends in 1962, right on the cusp of world conquest. I am a fiend for this stuff (although the existence of a "deluxe" 1,700-page edition gives even me pause; do I really need twice as many accounts of Pete Best's mediocrity as a drummer? No.)

From a business standpoint -- and this is a business blog; even on my meds I remember this -- the most interesting part was about how the Beatles finally got their foot in the door at EMI Abbey Road and what a dicey proposition it was.

Parlophone A&R chief George Martin (now Sir George Martin), contrary to legend, basically had the Beatles rammed down his throat by his boss, Sir Leonard Wood. Martin had been having an affair with his EMI assistant and Sir Leonard wanted to punish him. Two gents from Ardmore and Beechwood, EMI's music publishing arm, were interested to the rights to John and Paul's songwriting, and to get the rights they had to sign the Beatles and record them. Martin was told to do so if he wanted to keep his job.

At that point, the future Sir George didn't John and Paul's originals were that good, and gave the band a tune called "How Do You Do It?" which they grudgingly recorded. Its release got nixed, however, when the EMI brass told him it had to be a Lennon-McCartney song on the A-side. It ended up being "Love Me Do," which Martin did nothing to promote. The guys at Ardmore and Beechwood made a lot of calls, and that along with the big fan base in Liverpool propelled the record to a respectable position on the charts. That got them a fresh shot with Martin, who would have abandoned them if "Love Me Do" had stiffed. The rest is history. The next record, "Please Please Me," went to Number One and Martin got his revenge on Ardmore and Beechwood by pointing Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, to Dick James, with whom he set up Northern Songs and locked up the publishing.

Here's Sir Paul and his band doing "Please Please Me" a few years ago. Beatles Forever!