I recently attended my first Fest for Beatles Fans in 20 years. I needed to recharge my Beatles batteries, which I did on April 4 and 5 at the New York metro area Fest that took place at New Jersey’s Hyatt Regency Jersey City. It was the first in-person convention the Fest had held since 2019, and many kindred spirits also sought to rejoice in some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy by celebrating the Fab Four, 60 years after their first album With the Beatles was released in the UK.
The big draw at this year’s convention was the Zoom coupling of The Beatles: Get Back documentary director Peter Jackson (calling in from New Zealand) and Michael Lindsay-Hogg (calling in from update New York), the director of the 1970 Let It Be movie.
The Disney+ eight-hour The Beatles: Get Back documentary released last fall (see my Copper article in Issue 152) about the sessions that led to Let It Be, the last Beatles album to be released, whetted the appetite for such a meeting of the minds. It was as if the audience was eavesdropping on the two directors trading notes on various technical matters, such as Jackson searching for missing audio that needed to be synched in order to properly edit the documentary. The Beatles’ label, Apple, attempted to solve the problem by acquiring every bootleg recording available; fortunately, the original Nagra audio reels were found, enabling Jackson to complete the project over the course of three years.
Living in the Material World
An interesting exchange between Jackson and Lindsay-Hogg revolved around whether Yellow Submarine could have been construed as the third Beatles movie (after A Hard Day’s Night and Help). However, United Artists objected, because the animated film wasn’t a narrative feature (it didn’t even use the Beatles’ own voices). My theory, which I’ve previously stated, was that Beatles business manager Allen Klein could have quickly released the January 1969 impromptu rooftop concert that resulted in the Let It Be album within a few months, instead of waiting another 15 months, and that the delay might have been because of a contractual obligation. Jackson and Lindsay-Hogg indicated that Klein was bent on releasing the Let It Be movie soundtrack on his ABKCO label and their last as a group, even if the Beatles were no more.
After buying her book, Miss O’Dell, I had a nice private chat with featured speaker Chris O’Dell, who was present at the rooftop concert and who worked as an Apple assistant in 1968 through 1969. Chris later toured with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It didn’t occur to me that I should ask O’Dell if she knew why George didn’t get to have one of his songs played on the roof, or whether it ever came up while she lived with George and Pattie Harrison at Friar Park in May 1970.
I also ran into Fest for Beatles Fans announcer and WFUV-FM DJ Darren DeVivo, who interviewed Peter Jackson in November 2021 for the “Things We Said Today” podcast with his co-hosts Allan Kozinn and Ken Michaels. About 90 minutes into the nearly four-hour interview, Jackson says that footage showed that the Beatles had only planned to play five songs at the rooftop concert.
During a Saturday night trivia contest, eight out of 10 contestants said George was their favorite Beatle (mine too). In fact, I bought a $25 t-shirt of George playing guitar and wore it the next day.
While Jackson and Lindsay-Hogg were virtual, everyone else at the Fest was in person, and having a great time, despite the steep admission price: a two-day pass cost $175. George was so right when he called his second album Living in the Material World.
All We Need Is Love
One of the Fest for Beatles Fans emcees, New York disc jockey Ken Dashow of Q104.3 (Tony Soprano’s favorite radio station), invited me to the studio the following Wednesday to record a show for his podcast, “Ken Dashow’s Beatles Revolution” and to talk about the Beatles and my new book Record Store Day: The Most Improbable Comeback of the 21st Century. Ken really made my day by mentioning the book and myself on his syndicated radio show “Breakfast With the Beatles,” broadcast live from the Fest that Sunday morning.
The 2022 edition of Fest for Beatles Fans, dubbed “Get Back to the Fest,” was similar to how I remembered the last one I attended 20 years ago: attendance by Beatles historians and authors with recently-published books; performances by professional musicians who were connected to the Fab Four (one-time Wings guitarist Laurence Juber did a fantastic acoustic set), or to related artists like Billy J. Kramer, the native Liverpudlian to whom Lennon and McCartney gifted four of their compositions; renowned tribute bands; and amateur musicians who brought their instruments for impromptu jams. There was a Marketplace bazaar for memorabilia collectors, and a number of trivia contests took place, to name just a few of the festivities. Attendees from all walks of life around the country who otherwise would have never met congregated over their mutual love of their favorite band’s music. Below is a Fest recap video by four Beatles experts.
30 Beatles Moments In My Life
As I took the New York City subway and PATH train to Jersey City to and from the Fest for Beatles Fans, I compiled a list of my 30 favorite Beatles memories, here, there and everywhere, yesterday and today.
1) Watching Beatlemania unfold on TV as a 5–year-old, as my dad called the Fab Four a “Communist plot.” We lived a mile from Shea Stadium. I never got tired of hearing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on WABC-AM on my transistor radio given to me by my grandmother for my birthday.
2) Meeting Paul McCartney backstage at the 1994 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony (rudely breaking up his conversation with Yoko Ono, behavior that still shames me). Yoko had just given Paul the cassette containing “Free As a Bird,” “Free Love” and two other demos. Paul gladly accepted my EastEnders fanzine because he and Linda were fans of the popular British TV show. I interviewed Yoko five years later by fax for an article about the John Lennon Anthology CD boxed set.
3) Buying Introducing The Beatles as a 99-cent cutout in 1972 when I finally bought a record player. I spent my 1970 birthday money on a cassette recorder, which I used to record favorite songs off WABC-AM, and play The London Chuck Berry Sessions on prerecorded cassette.
4) Buying the Beatles “Red” and “Blue” double-LP greatest hits sets on April 2, 1973, the day of their release, followed by the White Album the next week. I put up the four headshots from the White Album in each corner of my bedroom.
5) Seeing George Harrison on December 20, 1974 perform at Madison Square Garden (the Dark Horse tour); I saw Wings there on May 24,1976.
6) Meeting Ringo Starr with my two-year-old daughter in July 2000 at a CD store near Radio City Music Hall (we had just seen the All-Star Band in Westbury, New York). I said, “Ringo, here’s your littlest fan on the queue today.” He looked down and quipped, “No, we’ve had littler.”
7) Buying a used German LP import pressing of Revolver for $3 in 1976 at a record store in Hempstead, NY near Hofstra University (where I just started) and realizing the American LPs on Capitol were giving fewer tracks on Beatles albums than the UK versions, which made me angry.
8) Asked in the summer of 1979 by an underground newspaper to interview John Lennon. I asked, incredulously, “You have this set up?” To which the editor replied, “No, that’s your job.” I went to the Dakota and wrote him a “Dear John” letter and invited him to come to the bank where I worked, for a free gift. Gave it to the doorman. I never heard from John.
9) Circa 2016: My dad telling me that, in retrospect, John Lennon was “a good guy” and that he regretted voting for Nixon in ’68 after reading an article about the disgraced president’s attempt to deport the Beatle.
10) Hearing on December 8, 1980 that John was killed by a deranged fan. I heard the news on WNEW-FM after Vin Scelsa played Springsteen’s “Jungleland”; I cried and cried.
11) My daughter told me as a 16-year-old babysitter that she put a toddler to sleep by singing “Dear Prudence” like I used to do with her.
12) My cousin Robin asked me in 1969 whether I had heard “Hey Jude” yet; I was 11, she was 10. Of course I had, and loved it.
13) Getting a tour of Abbey Road Studios in 1999 and seeing that high ceiling in person, picking up on the greatness that had occurred there. I had the same sensation when Bob Marley’s mom invited me to her Miami home in the late 1990s after I wrote about Marley in Vibe magazine
14) Crossing Abbey Road as a tourist in 1989; the recently found photo was taken by my future ex-wife.
15) Meeting Beatles photographer Robert Whitaker (of the Yesterday and Today album “Butcher Cover” fame) in the early 2000s at his New York City exhibit, and learning he’d much prefer to discuss EastEnders than the Beatles.
16) Recounting the Butcher Cover fiasco in a 2000 Medialine article featuring several of the principals involved, including Capitol president Ken Livingston, as well as the original production manager who supervised the pasting over of the controversial severed baby dolls sleeve with the innocuous steamer trunk cover.
17) Seeing George Harrison perform “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” one of my favorite Dylan songs, at “Bobfest” in Madison Square Garden on October 16, 1992.
18) Misinterpreting a promotion on WABC-AM in May 1970 when I was 12, thinking that there was a chance the Beatles would get back together if you wrote the winning essay on why they shouldn’t break up. The after-school sitter watching me and my younger brother told me there was no chance of a reunion, that it was over.
19) Biggest unexpected Beatles-related revelation: learning in February 2020 that John Lennon would regularly eat hot dogs at Gray’s Papaya at Broadway and 72nd Street. John’s White Album headshot still hangs there. The manager told me that Yoko Ono wouldn’t eat there. I used this anecdote in the Journalism 101 class I taught the next day at the New York Institute of Technology as an example of observation that leads to curiosity and news.
20) Not exactly the Broadway show Beatlemania, but my English actor friend from EastEnders, John Altman, played George Harrison in the 1979 Birth of the Beatles TV movie. When I visited his home (near Pete Townshend’s in West London), I saw that, like me, he kept Beatles trivia books in the bathroom.
21) Right before I was Bar Mitzvahed in April 1971, I realized that I objected to Judaism’s “chosen people” rhetoric. I thought to myself, “John Lennon is not Jewish, so he doesn’t count? Well, he’s my god.”
22) The fall of 1964: My parents took me and my younger brother to see A Hard Day’s Night at the Fresh Meadows, Queens movie theater. It was rare for us to do this; The Sound of Music and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang were the only other similar family excursions. I especially don’t understand it since my father hated what the Beatles represented (see number 1 on this list). Sitting in front of me, coincidentally, was a classmate on whom I had a crush; she didn’t appreciate me kicking her chair for the entire movie.
23) What pisses me off about the Get Back documentary: George Harrison quits on the seventh day of difficult sessions at Twickenham Studios. A hidden-microphone lunch reveals John and Paul acknowledging that George is understandably tired of taking a back seat to them. Why didn’t they make sure one of George’s songs would be played on the roof?
24) Favorite Beatles song: “A Day in the Life” because it captures how John and Paul complemented each other’s talents.
25) Favorite Beatles solo record: George’s All Things Must Pass.
26) Favorite Beatles solo song: John’s “Give Peace A Chance.”
27) Favorite Ringo solo performance: “I’m the Greatest.” John was so correct to not release it himself – I have his original on a bootleg – because it would have been egotistical, but Ringo had the perfect amount of ironic chutzpah and humility to pull it off.
28) Favorite Paul solo album: Ram, followed by Flaming Pie.
29) Favorite Beatles album: Revolver.
30) Best use of a Beatles song in a TV show: “Tomorrow Never Knows” in Mad Men. Don Draper (whose musical taste is more like Frank Sinatra) is asked by an advertising client to get Beatles-like music. Don’s much younger, second wife Megan suggests that he listen to the last track on Side Two of Revolver to understand the 1966 zeitgeist. He drops the needle on the turntable, lies back in his recliner and spaces out with his scotch. I wonder what would have happened if Megan had also given him a joint. Mad Men showrunner Matthew Weiner paid $250,000 for the usage rights; it was worth every penny.